American Veteran 04

Donald Miles Atkinson

September 23, 1930 ~ November 12, 2023 (age 93) 93 Years Old
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Donald Atkinson Obituary

Retired Air Force Major Donald M. Atkinson, a distinguished patriot, educator, and loving family man, passed away peacefully on November 12, 2023, at the age of 93. His passing comes after a life of dedicated service to his country and a rich tapestry of experiences shared with those he held dear.

Donald was born on September 23, 1930, in Elizabethtown, NC, to William Alford Atkinson and Swannanoa Melvin. Following a short enlistment in the US Air Force, Donald pursued higher education and earned a Bachelor's degree from East Carolina University. During this time, he

actively participated in the Air Force ROTC, ultimately commissioning as an officer upon graduation. While serving in the Air Force, Donald attained an additional Bachelor's degree from the University of Wyoming and later went on to achieve a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Oklahoma. His educational pursuits laid the foundation for a remarkable career that spanned both military and civilian life.

In 1966, Donald suffered the loss of his first wife, Jeanean Dickens of Enfield, NC. Later, he found lasting love and companionship with Betty “Boots” Thomas of Pittsboro, NC. They were married for a remarkable 55 years, creating a lifetime of shared adventures, love, and cherished moments until Boots’ passing in November 2022.

Major Atkinson served with honor and distinction in the United States Air Force for 23 years. His commitment to duty took him to various parts of the world, and he earned the respect of colleagues and superiors alike. After retiring from the military, Donald continued to inspire others as an educator, teaching at Wayne Community College in Goldsboro, NC, Limestone University in Gaffney, SC, and Horton Middle School in Pittsboro, NC, until his well-deserved retirement.

Donald and Betty, avid travelers, found joy in exploring the country in their RV. For many years, they cherished the warmth of North Fort Myers, Florida, where they spent winters creating lasting memories with beloved friends and fellow travelers.

Major (Ret) Donald Atkinson is survived by his loving family, including his children Marty Hein and husband Art of Matthews, NC; Donald Atkinson II and wife Judy of Cherry Valley, CA; Thomas Atkinson and wife Cheri of Pleasant Garden, NC; and Kendra Riggsbee and husband Mark of Moncure, NC. He is also survived by his adored grandchildren Jessica Haney (Winston) of Waxhaw, NC; Donald Atkinson III (Malinda) of California; Troy Atkinson (See) of Arizona, Joshua Atkinson (Rachel) of Texas, Whitney Hein of South Carolina; Alek Hein of Charlotte, NC; Cadet Olivia Riggsbee of the United States Military Academy; Petty Officer Clayton Riggsbee (US Navy); Emily Atkinson and Nicholas Atkinson, both of Pleasant Garden, NC; and his great-grandchildren Lilliana Atkinson, Reese Haney, Emerson Haney, Sadie Atkinson, and Harper Atkinson, as well as many nieces, nephews, in-laws, and cousins. His legacy of dedication, love, and service will be carried forward by all who were fortunate enough to know him.

A memorial service to celebrate Major Donald Atkinson's life will be held on November 25 at 1:00 pm at The Wilie Atkinson Family Cemetery in Bladen County. Military honors will be rendered in recognition of his exemplary service to his country.

Donald had a generous heart and was passionate about supporting various charities. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests that donations be made to honor Major Atkinson's memory. Contributions can be directed to organizations that held special significance to him, including Wounded Warriors, Samaritan’s Purse, Salvation Army, St. Jude’s, or your local church or Hospice facility. Your thoughtful donations will continue his legacy of compassion and support for those in need.

The Atkinson family expresses gratitude to friends, family, the caregivers at Westfield Rehabilitation, and the community for their support during this difficult time.

Donaldson Funeral Home & Crematory is honored to serve the Atkinson family.  Tributes can be left at

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Graveside Service
November 25, 2023

1:00 PM

Military Honors
November 25, 2023

1:00 PM


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