Donald Darl Bloom was born October 7, 1932 in Pomona, California, the only child of Darl Ralph and Blanche (McVeigh) Bloom. His mother was a homemaker and his father worked as a machinery installer at a fruit packing company. He attended elementary school in Pomona, but little did he know at the time that one of his second grade classmates would become the love of his life. The class was seated alphabetically, so Don Bloom and Elizabeth Ament sat next to each other, and Don was smitten with Libby from the start.
When Darl Bloom’s family moved to Carpinteria, California in 1943, Don developed a profound love and respect of the sea that he shared with his father. He helped maintain the family fishing boat, went fishing regularly with his father, and became an avid surfer long before it was cool, building a 12-foot surf board made of redwood. It was during those years, watching his dad, that Don developed his “over the top” work ethic. Because of it he excelled in sports, especially football and basketball, all through high school. Don also developed his passion for all things that float, roll and fly during this period, which he held onto and nurtured throughout his life.
Upon graduating from Carpinteria Union High School in 1951, Don attended both Pasadena City College and University of California at Santa Barbara, each for a semester, before embarking on a lengthy career in the Navy. In September 1952, he entered the California Maritime Academy (CMA) in Vallejo as a Midshipman in the Merchant Marine Reserve, U.S. Navy Reserve. He earned two degrees: Bachelor of Science in Navigation and Seamanship and Bachelor of Arts in Government and International Relations. Upon graduating from the CMA in August 1955, Don was immediately commissioned as a Reserve Officer, grade level Ensign, in the U.S. Navy and was subsequently activated to attend flight school in Pensacola, Florida. However, long before Don headed to Florida, he made an eventful trip back to Pomona without regret.
Previously, Don and Elizabeth Ament had reconnected in 1951, when both were seniors in high school. Don, being the Officer type and Gentleman that he always was, drove to Pomona to ask Mr. Ament if he could date his daughter Elizabeth, with the answer being “yes”. Once Don had mustered up enough nerve to ask Libby to a movie, the relationship strongly took off and dating became a regular event for both, especially in the first half of 1952, when both were enrolled at the University of California at Santa Barbara at the same time. Wedding bells were destined to follow. The loving couple married on August 20, 1955 at Westwood Presbyterian Church in Westwood, California, the start of an exceptional relationship that would span 55 years.
After completing flight school in 1957, Don was designated as a Naval Aviator and excelled at every assignment he was given. Over the years, he also attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California (May 1968 – June 1970) and Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island (August 1974 – July 1975). His profession could be summed up in these words: “Service, Commitment and 100% Devotion to Duty.”
Over an amazing nearly 28 year career in the U.S. Navy, which includes attendance at the CMA, Don spent approximately 24 years on Active Duty Status, with close to 22 of those years as a Naval Aviator, and over 9 years associated with overseas deployments to various worldwide locations in support of U.S. foreign policy. He served on 5 Aircraft Carriers: the U.S.S. Hornet, Yorktown, Wasp, Bennington, and Inchon; completed over 1,000 aircraft carrier landings; flew three different aircraft to include the T-28, SNB C-45 and the S2F Tracker; and was awarded decorations and medals that included a Meritorious Unit Commendation, Air Medal with Gold Star, National Defense Service Medal, and Vietnam Service Medal. Don’s last command at sea was as the Executive Officer (XO) of the U.S.S. Inchon (August 1975 – September 1977). Up to this point Don’s professional focus was always: The Men, the Mission and the Airplanes. But when he retired on February 28, 1979 in Virginia Beach, Virginia and returned to Coronado in 1981, where he was previously stationed (February 1966-May 1968), Don’s focus was turned toward family and friends.
Don and Libby had been blessed with five children, and over the course of Don’s naval career, the family moved eight times over long distances. Mike was born in Pensacola in 1956, Debra in Garden Grove in 1959, Louise in Garden Grove in 1960, Margo in Pensacola in 1962 and Courtney in Pensacola in 1963. Supporting Don was his beloved Libby, always ready to hold down the fort and care for the children while he was on deployment. The two of them epitomized the term “True Love,” sharing every step of their journey together as companions for life.
Retired at 62, Don was not one to let any moss grow under his feet, so he decided to go back to school to learn appliance repair. He then established Don’s Appliance Service and for the next 15 years fixed stoves, washers and refrigerators all over San Diego County. Once he was paid in popcorn by Orville Redenbacher for fixing his washing machine. When asked if his business made any money, Don replied, “Nope, I just broke even.” He worked for the pleasure of it—the work kept him busy and he felt he was being of service to the community.
Not surprisingly, Don expanded his hobbies to include Ham radios and gem stones. He set up a gem shop in his garage, shaping and polishing stones that he set in jewelry for friends and family. Never one to do anything halfway, Don pursued GIA certification as a gemologist in various areas and became a licensed Ham Radio operator. Combining his interests with his commitment to community, he volunteered with the Amateur Ham Radio Emergency Response Team, was a member of the Optimist Club, the VFW Post 2422, the Floral Association and various other Coronado clubs.
Harkening back to his passion for all things that float, roll and fly, Don being a self-taught historian and an avid hobbyist as well, was always eager to build something in his spare time. Some of his earlier building projects included two sailboats, a Malibu Outrigger and Mob Jack. Knowing that he was going to fully retire within a year, Don and Libby purchased a new 33-foot Ambassador RV in 1993, which they planned to equip for extended road trips. After completing that, Don put together an ambitious travel schedule that took them to many historical sites and places of interest. One memorable trip was a drive across the U.S. in September 1994 that ended up in eastern Canada, where the RV was put on a ferryboat bound for Nova Scotia. Thus, Don had begun his transition into the “roll” phase of life. Another memorable trip was a two part three and a half month Western excursion that took them to Bellingham, Washington, where the RV with Ford Explorer in tow was put on a ferryboat bound for Alaska.
In 1996, Don hung up his RV keys (temporarily). It is what he saw during the Alaska trip at the Anchorage airport (bush planes taking-off and landing), coupled together with what he saw during an extended 1994 RV trip to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the annual Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) fly-in is what drove him to want to fly again. After getting Libby’s blessing while on the road home from Alaska, a decision was made to go ahead and buy a plane. Typical of Don, instead of buying a finished airplane he decided to build one himself. After research, he purchased a Piper Super Cub replica kit and over the next five years, he and Libby were often found at the hanger at Gillespie Field, patiently building the plane. The completion of the Piper was the finest example of Don’s ability to work with his hands and his meticulous attention to detail. The plane was perfect. He flew it in the local San Diego area with Libby as his backseat co-pilot. Although Don’s health forced him to stop flying planes in May 2004, the two were not yet done with their on-the-go desire for adventure.
Re-transitioning back into the “roll” phase of life, Don and Libby purchased a new 2004 Jeep Wrangler and modified it extensively for true off-road touring. With Jeeping their new passion, they logged thousands of off-road miles throughout the Eastern Sierras and Southern California and became active members of the San Diego Four Wheelers and Tierra Del Sol Jeep clubs. The more experience he gained, the more aggressive Don became, and he and Libby were constantly on the go, looking for others to share their adventures. Don never lost his love for Jeeping.
Whatever his involvements, Don was seen as a giant of a man: Paul Bunyan in height and John Wayne in stature. He was a straight-forward, “tell-it-like-it-is” guy, noted for such phrases as, “Take control of your life!” or “I don’t need your free advice!” and “I don’t count miles or money!” He was driven by his desire to always learn, teach others, and search for the next adventure. He had strong feelings, yet was good at listening and compassionate when necessary. He was opinionated, yet fair and always willing to try something new.
Don courageously battled cancer the latter part of last year and died peacefully on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at home in Coronado, CA, surrounded by members of his family. Don, Dad, Pops, G-Daddy—as he was lovingly addressed and known by his family—will truly be missed.
CDR Donald Darl Bloom USN (Ret) Donald Darl Bloom, aged 78, is survived by his loving wife Elizabeth Ament Bloom (Libby) of 55 years; five loving children: SOCM Michael Donald Bloom USN (Ret), Debra Bloom-Tase Suminski, Louise Bloom Shoudy, Margo Bloom Green, MSgt Courtney Chandler Bloom USAF (Ret) and their spouses; 10 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. Dad, we thank you for everything you did with and for our family and the legacy you left behind for us to admire and honor as well as grow. We all love you and will always remember you. As the late Bob Hope would say, “Thanks for the memories.”
A celebration of Don’s life is scheduled to be held on May 14, 2011 at 10:00 am at the Naval Air Station North Island Chapel, Coronado, CA. Entombment is scheduled for May 16, 2011 at 11:00 am at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA. In lieu of flowers, memorials in Don’s name are requested to be made to a charity of your choice. To leave a memory of Don or to sign the online guest book, visit www.LifeStoryNet.com