Donald Ray Perkins

Donald Ray Perkins was the kind of hero with rough hands but a tender heart, the kind who raised children instead of hell, who said little and did much — and did it over and over.

He was born May 3, 1935, to Clarence and Maurine Perkins of Columbia. The eldest of five brothers, he attended Hickman High School and worked at the legendary Zero House, a popular store and gathering place. In 1954, Donald enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was stationed at Fort McClellan in Alabama and served in the Chemical Corps during the Korean War.

On Jan. 19, 1955, while he was enlisted, he married Virginia Gail Mordica, who survives. During their courtship, the two loved roller-skating, going to drive-in movies and cruising the Loop together.

After Donald was discharged from the Army, he returned to Columbia. He worked as an ornamental ironworker at Riback Industries, where he became a certified welder. Donald was a union supporter who never crossed picket lines.

He and his family moved to Harrisburg and lived across the street from Red Rock United Methodist Church. Donald was a 50-year member of the church and served there in many capacities such as president of the cemetery association, trustee and treasurer. He helped organize the church’s annual fish fry for many years.

Eventually Donald took a position at Columbia Autobody, where he worked with his brothers-in-law until his retirement. During his time there, he also attended Columbia College as one of the first veterans enrolled in the school’s evening program.

Donald loved bird-watching, fishing in his pond, gardening, puttering around his property and keeping busy. He hosted a well-attended fish fry at his own home for several years. He enjoyed visiting the nearby Amish community, where he had many friends. He liked bluegrass music and camping. Although he truly botched the Thanksgiving turkey one year, he made the best homemade ice cream around.

Nothing was more important to Donald than family, which he put above everything else. He was a man of integrity who always sought opportunities to help others, and he kept his word. Donald was well-loved and respected, and his family and friends will miss him dearly.

Donald passed away surrounded by loved ones Thursday, April 7, 2016. Survivors include his wife, Virginia Gail Perkins of Harrisburg; sons Michael Perkins Sr. (Jenifer) of Columbia and Rick Perkins (Holly) of Harrisburg; daughter Donna Blakemore (Gary) of Harrisburg; and brothers Billy Perkins (Doris) of Harrisburg, Gale Perkins (Mary) of Harrisburg and Dale Perkins (Peggy) of Columbia. Donald is also survived by nine grandchildren: Adam Lewis (Sara), Michael Perkins Jr. (Larissa), Jessica Walsh (Brandon), Colin Perkins (Mary), Hannah Perkins, Rachel Perkins, Spencer Perkins, Jenna Blakemore and Sarah Blakemore. He loved seeing his six great-grandchildren as well: Brayden Lewis, Cason Lewis, Abigail Perkins, Grant Perkins, Daniel Perkins and Lainie Blakemore.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Monday, April 11, at Red Rock United Methodist Church in Harrisburg, with visitation from noon until the service.

Donald always expressed his gratitude to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital for the care and assistance he received.

Friends and family members may choose to honor his memory by making donations to Welcome Home (573-443-8001), which provides emergency and transitional shelter for veterans.

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