Ken O’Donnell, age 85, Marine Raider, died peacefully at his home on Thursday, October 8, 2009, following a courageous battle with cancer.
He was born on November 26, 1923, in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, to the late Michael Leroy O’Donnell and Gladys Marian Marks. He graduated from Merriman High School, Merriman, Nebraska, in 1941. Ken was attending the University of Nebraska when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He and his best friend from high school, Bud Leach, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on September 9, 1942. Ken served with distinction with the 4th Raider Battalion, commanded by LtCol James Roosevelt (President Franklin Roosevelt’s eldest son). He was wounded twice during the assault on Bairoko Harbor, New Georgia, and spent the next eleven months at the Naval Hospital in San Diego. He attained the rank of Sergeant before his discharge on December 7, 1945. On October 2, 1943, he married Arline Dowd, his high school sweetheart.
After the war he and Arline moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he attended the University of Colorado. There he and Arline had three sons. He entered the pharmaceutical field and also built several houses in Boulder.
His beloved wife of almost 31 years died on September 6, 1974. He later married Mary Jane Oakes (Bucky) of Virginia.
Ken was the President of the United States Marine Raider Association from 2008-2009 and had been a member since 1982.
Ken is survived by his wife, Bucky; three sons, Terry, Timothy, and Tally; stepdaughter Carol Oakes and stepson John Oakes; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. He is further survived by nieces, nephews, other relatives, and many friends. He was preceded in death by his brother, Jim, and his sister, Jane.
A memorial service for Ken O’Donnell will be held on 1 November at the Quantico Marine Museum Chapel at 5:30 PM followed by a reception at the Quantico Marine Museum at 6:30 PM. Interment will be in Boulder, Colorado, at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, Ken’s family requests funds to be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project Fund in his name.
Ken’s family wishes to thank all the many family and friends who have expressed their condolences.