Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Donald “Don” Ray Hedgpath was born 16 April 1939 to Mary Ann Gallagher and Martin Ray Hedgpath. He was raised in Claremore, Oklahoma by his grandmother, Nellie Hedgpath, and was, as she, a proud citizen of the Cherokee Indian Nation. He faithfully served his country for more than 59 years of military and civilian service. His service began as a young enlisted member retiring at a rank of LTC in the Army Air Defense Artillery.
LTC Hedgpath graduated Claremore High School in 1957 where he was a full-back on the varsity football team and voted “Most Handsome” by his peers. He was nicknamed “Red” for his red hair. He worked with Frank Robson at the Claremore Ice Company hauling ice and butchering meat. In 1955 at the age of 16, while still in high school, he enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard. Upon graduating high school, LTC Hedgpath attended the Oklahoma Military Academy (OMA) from 1957-1959. The Oklahoma Military Academy, once known as the “West Point of the Southwest,” operated “on the hill” of the now Rogers State University from 1919 to 1971. LTC Hedgpath received a scholarship to play football for the OMA Thunderbirds and went on to receive an Associate Degree in General Education.
LTC Hedgpath married Denyse Graves, of Claremore, Oklahoma, in 1957. In their 33 years of marriage they had four children: Donald Ray Hedgpath, Jr. (deceased) Claremore, Oklahoma, Darla Hedgpath-Meisinger, Claremore, Oklahoma; Dyanna Hedgpath-Moore, Alexandria, Virginia and Daniel Hedgpath, Fulton, Missouri.
Upon Don’s completion of OMA, the young Hedgpath couple moved to Ada, Oklahoma where he attended East Central State University from 1959-1961. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education and Industrial Arts. Following his graduation, Don and Denyse relocated to Hobbs, New Mexico and he then transferred into the New Mexico National Guard. LTC Hedgpath became a teacher and coach. While teaching he applied and was accepted into the Officer Candidate School in 1961 this training took place at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
His commitment to his students and athletes would soon be put to the test. In July 1968, now Captain (CPT) Hedgpath, was deployed to the Republic of Vietnam as the Commander, Charlie Battery, 4th Battalion, 60th Artillery. In this assignment he commanded elements of young men disbursed in both the II and III Corps Tactical Zones – spanning half of South Vietnam. Through his leadership, bravery and actions under fire he was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and The Air Medal. In July 1969, he returned to the United States and took a position guiding and mentoring our nation’s future military leaders. As the Assistant Professor of Military Science, Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, he received a Master's Degree in Guidance and Counseling.
Over the next 20 years, LTC Hedgpath maintained his commitment to teach, coach, mentor and train our nation’s military leaders. His distinguished assignments included:
1972-1976 – Air Defense Artillery Officer Fort Hood, Texas
1976-1978 – Assistant Professor Military Science, Northeast Missouri State University, Kirksville, Missouri
1978-1979- Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
1979-1982- Tactical/Leadership Advisor for Ohio and Kentucky National Guard, Fort Knox, Kentucky
1982-1985 – Professor of Military Science, Westminster/William Woods Colleges, Fulton, Missouri
1985-1987 – Air/Ground Operations Officer, Republic of Korea
1987-1989 – Chief, Mobilization, Plans & Operations, Fort Bliss, Texas
LTC Hedgpath retired from active duty on 30 June 1989 with 33 years of military service. His military service awards include:
Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal w/4 stars; Vietnam Campaign Medal; Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/Palm; Meritorious Unit Citation; Armed Forces Reserve Medal; Joint Service Achievement Air Med #3; Purple Heart; Army Commendation Medal 3rd Oak Leaf Cluster; Meritorious Service Medal 3d Oak Leaf Cluster; Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Bronze Star Medal; O/S Bar (2); and Parachute Badge.
He married Kyong Uk Do of South Korea in January of 1990 and the two enjoyed a 25 year marriage. The now retired LTC Hedgpath, as a Senior Instructor for Junior Reserve Officer Training Course (JROTC), was assigned in 1992 to Seoul American High School (SAHS), Yongsan Army Garrison, Seoul, South Korea. He was responsible for all student cadet military education and discipline for the “Falcon Battalion” where he grew the JROTC program to a peak of 257 students -- the largest program in the Pacific.
Over 21 years as the leader, LTC Hedgpath went beyond the call of duty to provide help and guidance to the students. To quote Command Sergeant Major Al Braswell, a founder of the SAHS’ JROTC program, “LTC Hedgpath spent more time with the young people than anyone I have ever known!” Don considered the leadership position a 24 hour, seven days a week, 365 days a year job -- it paid off.
He instilled excellence and hard work ethics into all the JROTC programs -- his students performed, gained confidence and became winners. While LTC Hedgpath's JROTC efforts spanned two decades at SAHS, the 2008 graduating class scholarship awards are an example of his untethered dedication to the student body. That year, with a senior class of only 132 students, by graduation time, seven JROTC cadets earned appointments to military academies: two to the U.S. Military Academy, three to the U.S. Air Force Academy and two to the U.S. Naval Academy. That same year, 34 graduates earned 70 ROTC scholarships. This was the normal year for LTC Hedgpath’s JROTC program. The total number of scholarships that he help students earn during his 21 years in SAHS JROTC are in the hundreds.
LTC Hedgpath's “can do” attitude was re-enforced throughout his teaching and extra-curricular activities. For many years, he was the “go-to-guy” for sports on the Korean Peninsula. As the SAHS Athletic Director, he ensured that U.S. Military dependents were provided with top-notch athletic events that included traveling to local Korean colleges and high schools -- Japan, Guam, Okinawa and Hong Kong. During the tournaments at Seoul, LTC Hedgpath did his best to make sure every participant took home positive memories and a memento of the event. No student athlete was left out. Loving student sports, he was also a SAHS Falcon Coach and was involved with all events from baseball to volleyball to track.
During the later years at SAHS, LTC Hedgpath, changed jobs and became a full time history and psychology teacher; however, he remained very active in SAHS activities and in the lives of the students. His influence and participation within Seoul American High School, Yongsan Army Garrison and on the Korean peninsula were endless. His commitment to his community and the families of Yongsan continued through his volunteer efforts. LTC Hedgpath volunteered as the SAHS Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) Coordinator. In this capacity, he ensured teachers and their families were prepared for a no-notice evacuation from the Korean Peninsula due to North Korean war activities.
For many years, LTC Hedgpath also provided help to teachers and their families coming to Korea the first time. His gregarious personality was well suited to be the lead “meeter greeter”, resulting in hundreds of trips to the international airport and assisting the “newbees” with temporary housing, transportation, care of their pets and help with financial problems.
LTC Hedgpath was a member and an involved participant of the Veteran of Foreign Wars, the SAHS Parent Teacher Organization, Phi Delta Kappa (Korea), Teachers and Educators Association of Korea (TEAK), SAHS School Improvement Program and many other groups and associations.
His 59 year career was based on his untiring selfless service to His Nation, His Army, and His Community. He has truly touched thousands of lives through his involvement as a leader, teacher, coach, coordinator and community participant.
LTC Hedgpath was a father of four and grandfather of fifteen. He loved to travel, coach sports and garden. He was looking to his final retirement in Claremore until his untimely death on July 11, 2015.
In lieu of flowers a memorial fund will be established in his name for the Seoul American High School in South Korea. Memorial fund and condolences can be sent to Kyong Hedgpath at 337 East 15th Street, Claremore, Oklahoma 74017. The funeral service will be held Friday, July 17, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church with interment at Woodlawn Cemetery full military honors will be presented. Rice Funeral Service has been entrusted with LTC Hedgpath’s care.
He is preceded in death by:
Son – Donald Ray Hedgpath Junior
Father- Martin Ray Hedgpath
Mother – Mary Ann Gallagher
Sister - Nelli Jane Hedgpath Long
Brother - Max Garland Hedgpath
He is survived by:
Wife – Kyong Hedgpath, Seoul, South Korea
Former Wife - Denyse Graves Hedgpath, Claremore, Oklahoma
Daughter-in-law – Trudy Drummand Hedgpath of Claremore, Oklahoma and grandfather to Amanda Hedgpath May of Claremore and Ally Hedgpath Rink of Oklahoma City.
Daughter – Darla Hedgpath Meisinger, and son-in-law Cole of Claremore, Oklahoma, grandfather to Cassidy, Gage, Jack, and Dani.
Daughter – Dyanna Hedgpath Moore, and son-in-law Scot of Alexandria, Virginia, grandfather to Jordan, Spencer, McKenzie, and Cooper.
Son – Daniel Hedgpath, and daughter-in-law Paige of Fulton, Missouri and grandfather to Riley, Makaela, Sydney, and twins Samantha and Jayna.