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Don McPherson


By Steve Shay


As a member of the USS Saginaw Chapter, I have heard the name Don McPherson probably since attending my very first chapter meeting. Don joined USCS in August 1963 and 3 months later was one of 14 plank owners when the Saginaw Chapter was formed November 17, 1963. Unfortunately Don passed away long before I became a Saginaw member so I was never able to meet him.

A native of San Francisco, Don was born in 1915. He lived in Corte Madera in Marin County for the last 16 years of his life. Don worked for the City of San Francisco as a gardener. During World War II and the Korean War, Don was in the Navy where he rose to the rank of Chief Photographer’s Mate. It was during this period that he began a collection of negatives of Navy and merchant ships which numbered about 4,000 at the time of his death. Don’s photo file was so extensive that he supplied many photographs and pertinent information to the Navy Historical Record Section in Washington, DC for it’s official files. His negatives were donated to the USCS where they have formed the core of the USCS Photo Library. If you are interested in pictures of ships, you can see and purchase the photos on the USCS web site.

Don retired from the City of San Francisco in 1963 and it seems he kept very busy. Not only did he join USCS that year but he also helped organize the Tamalpais Stamp Club that year and he served as President of the club for several years. He was also a member of the Caledonia Club of San Francisco, a Scottish Society that sponsors annual Highland Games and he was one of the organizers of the Prince Charles Pipe Band. (Think bag pipes.) Don also served for many years as historian of the Maritime Museum in San Francisco, as a counselor for stamp and coin merit badges for the Boy Scouts and as a docent at the Naval-Marine Museum that used to operate on Treasure Island. Don also served as a delegate to the Council of Northern California Philatelic Societies and was their show coordinator at the time of his death. He was a member of the War Cover Club (now the Military Postal History Society) and the President of the Bear Post Chapter. It seems he was pretty busy in retirement.

Don was Co-Historian of the USCS at the time of his death and he had an impressive collection of war history, Tokyo Bay, White Fleet, Zeppelin and classic covers. He was a regular exhibitor at USCS conventions and local shows. In 1978 his Tokyo Bay exhibit received a Gold medal, the Locy, Jesse Burgesss Thomas and Moffett awards at the USCS Convention. Don also was a Log contributor with a series called “Flag Bag” which were historical articles. It’s said he hoped his articles would inspire others to research naval history and contribute to the Log. I’m sure they did. Don served as a USCS Director for a short period, replacing Ray St. John who died in December 1977.

It’s also said that Don was a very generous person and would go out of his way to be helpful, lending information, photo or cover. The photo for this article shows a friendly, happy man standing beside that I think is a Rambler at the USCS 1967 Convention. At the time of his death from heart complications, October 14, 1978, Don was survived by his wife Irene and son Don who was serving in the Navy aboard USS Orion.

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