Donald Harding Peck was born on August 2, 1923 to Harry and Otilia “Tilly” Peck. He departed this life on Thursday, April 18, 2019. He was 95 years old.
Peck was the third of five sons: George, Fred, Donald, Cecil and Harold. Though his elder brothers pleaded with their mother to name him “Sparkplug,” his parents chose Donald Harding, instead, in honor of President Warren G. Harding, who died on the day of his birth.
Peck’s youth was spent during the Great Depression. He recalled his Christmas gifts during that time to be a ball and a book, and that was just fine with the young boy, who loved to read. Later in life, he’d reflect back on the Depression and credited his grandparents’ Mt. Carmel farm with feeding and sustaining their family.
Peck attended high school at Hillhouse. He enjoyed recounting one particularly memorable walk home from school with his best friend, Charlie, right in the middle of the notorious Hurricane of 1938, which devastated coastal Connecticut.
In January 1943, at the age of 19, with the nation at War, Peck enlisted in the United States Marine Corps (USMC). All five of the Peck sons served during WWII - George and Fred in the United States Army; twins Cecil and Harold in the United States Navy, and Donald, the lone Marine.
Peck became a radar operator and served in the Pacific theater. During his service, Peck fought against the enemy at Guam, from July 21, 1944 to August 15, 1944.
Upon his honorable discharge from the USMC in November 1945, Sgt. Peck traveled to Ohio and earned an Associate Degree from Defiance College.
Finding jobs hard to come by and having a passion for flight, he enlisted again - this time, in the Army Air Corps (now, the United States Air Force). He went to Texas and learned to fly solo, but poor night vision scuttled his plans to be a pilot. He’d had dreams of one day flying bush planes in Alaska, but destiny had other plans for him.
He met the love of his life, Alyce Constance Cronin, over ice cream at Polo’s in downtown New Haven, where their two families then lived. Their love and laughter endured. “Don and Con” celebrated more than 60 years of marriage together. They raised three sons - Brian Michael, David Donald, and Donald Healy.
Fresh out of the service, Peck held several jobs, including cook at the Three Judges Restaurant. But in 1953, his brother, George, helped him land a job at the State of Connecticut’s Department of Transportation as a design engineer, working on projects like the Merritt Parkway and I-95. He retired from the State 25 years later, and took his engineering talents to the Town of Branford, where he worked in surveying, and later, accepted a job offer at the Milford Superior Court, as a court reporter. He was a man who loved to work - the actual work, but also the camaraderie of his colleagues.
Donald Peck appreciated a good joke - laughing at them, telling them. His sense of humor was contagious. He was best known for it.
His ultimate retirement didn’t end his drive. He remained restless and curious. He read voraciously - from novels to magazines. He wanted to know about topics like archeology, space, history, travel, culture and politics. He collected stamps and coins, and most recently, took up stargazing and coloring.
He was eternally devoted to his beloved wife, Connie. He adored and doted on her. Following her death, in the penultimate chapter of his life, Peck moved to Milford, where he shared a home with his “kid brother,” Harold, whose nurturing, care, and companionship uplifted him.
Peck is survived by his brother, Harold; his sons Brian Peck of San Francisco, CA; David Peck of Branford, CT , and Healy Peck (Gretchen) of New London, CT; and four grandchildren - Emily Ann, David Gilbane, Susannah Kate, and Joaquin Lorenzo.
Public viewing hours will be held at W.S. Clancy Memorial Funeral Home in Branford, Conn., on Monday, April 22, 2019, from 6-8 pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Mary Church at St. John Bosco Parish, 731 Main Street, Branford on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at 10:00 am, with internment to follow at St. Agnes Cemetery. The family would like to thank the nurses, therapists, and staff at Orange Rehabilitation Hospital for their amazing care and support of our Dad.
To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Donald Peck, please visit our Tribute Store.