Donovan Vernel Elliott, Jr

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Donovan V. Elliott, Jr, known mostly by his nickname, "Duff", was born in Houston, Texas, USA, in 1943, but lived most of his life in Southern California. His parents were Donovan V. and Florence (nee Snyder) Elliott, both originally of Kansas, USA. Duff attended various schools in Southern California, and displayed a great deal of interest in fixing cars and trucks of all types, and could often be found burrowing into the engine compartment of whatever motor vehicle had hit his fancy at the time. He loved muscle cars and tough pickup trucks, and at one time or another owned an early Chevy Corvette and later a Corvette Stingray. One of his favorite pickup trucks displayed a plaque on the back of its tailgate: "The Jim Beam Special". Of course, Jim Beam was his favorite brand of bourbon whiskey.

Duff worked at physical occupations for most of his life, and at the time of his retirement was working as a welder at ITS (International Transportation Service, Inc.), Gate & Container Yard at Pier J in Long Beach, California.

After several years of poor health he died in 2014 at the age of 71.

Individual Facts

Vital Statistics

  • Name: Donovan Vernel Elliott, Jr
  • AKA: D.V., Duff, The Kid, Duffy, Dobbie,
  • Sex: Male
  • Father: Donovan Vernel Elliott
  • Mother: Etta Florence Nellie Snyder
  • Birth: 10 October 1943 in Houston, Texas
  • Death: 17 December 2014 in Westminster, California

Marriages

Marriage 1

  • Spouse: Karen Ann
  • Marriage: 30 Dec 1967 at Brides Choice Wedding Chapel
  • Children: stepdaughters Kelly Shelly and Belinda
  • Divorced: Final Judgment of Nullity on 26 April 1971, Orange Co, CA

Marriage 2

  • Spouse: Carolyn
  • Marriage: 5 Apr 1975, Parent’s home, Garden Grove, CA
  • Children: 1 stepson, Tim
  • Divorced: 9 August 1993 Orange Co, CA

Marriage 3

  • Spouse: : Judith
  • Marriage: 4 March 2005 at Laughlin, Clark, NV
  • Children: stepsons Stephen and Thomas

Biography

Duff was born in Houston, Texas, but lived most of his life in Southern California. His father was ill most of his life, suffering from a heart valve problem that was then difficult to treat. For this reason his mother had to work to support the family. The family moved to Garden Grove in November 1959, where he attended Rancho Alamitos High School. His father passed away in January 1960.

In July 1960 his mother remarried, to Don Clark, a widower who had been one of her coworkers at Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, where his mother had worked for seven years while supporting the family in Donovan Senior's final illness.

Duff was extremely talented. He could make anything out of wood, could weld anything, and worked as a tile maker, carpet layer, and mechanic. While working at ITS on the docks he made tools and jigs that amazed his bosses. He had an eye for design, collected signs, loved muscle cars and pickup trucks, and everything he owned had something one never saw on anything else -- the family referred to these unique features "Duffy Do's".


Military Service

Enlistment Frolics

Having been born deaf in one ear, Duff was physically ineligible for military service, but a strong family tradition of service in the United States military caused him to seek enlistment anyway, first in the Navy and then the Army. He was however rejected because of his disability. Nevertheless, the Selective Service System apparently did not take note of these rejections, for one day in 1965 he received a draft notice, and was directed to report for processing at the Los Angeles military induction center. Knowing it was all a waste of time, he ignored the letter. When a second letter showed up telling him to report to Santa Ana, California, he showed up expecting to be rejected. Again. Because he had ignored the first letter they took him.

He later told me, in jest I hope, that the sole physical exam being performed that day was a check to see if you could fog a mirror, in which case you were IN. For they decided that he could serve after all! And so he was inducted into the US Army, and sent off to Fort Bliss, Texas to be trained as an Air Defense Artilleryman. What I suspect is this: they checked his ears and decided that since he had been given a draft notice, well, he must be faking the deafness. That's my theory, anyway.

No Time for Sergeants

Well, Duff did not take kindly to this roundabout way of getting him into the service, and ever afterwards he maintained a rather disgusted attitude about the whole thing. Nevertheless, his ability as a backyard mechanic and driver was recognized, and rather than ship him off to Viet-nam or some other place, he was assigned to be the official driver of a US Army colonel at Fort Bliss. This plum duty made it possible for him to enjoy life in the Army rather more than would be expected as a one-striper, and his Colonel also apparently liked him a great deal. So he had it made. Until one fine day.

It was on a Friday, the start of a weekend, and he and his buddies had been drinking when he decided that he wanted to introduce his friends to his Mom's home cooking in Garden Grove, California, some thousand miles distant. And off they went. By the time they arrived in Garden Grove, the weekend was half over. Their arrival surprised his mother greatly, and worriedly she asked him if he had been given a pass to be off post (the Army was a little stricter about such things in those days), and upon discovering that this adventure was completely without permission, she hurriedly fixed them a good meal and sent them packing, back to Fort Bliss. And they almost made it. They were approaching the Texas border in the wee hours of Monday morning, probably speeding a bit to make sure they made it back in time for morning formation, when a New Mexico law officer pulled them over. He recognized them immediately as soldiers out of uniform, and, inquiring about passes, discovered they were AWOL. They ended up being taken into custody and held for the Military Police.

No More Easy Duty

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Donovan's military decorations: National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal; Republic of Vietnam Service Medal

As a result of the misadventure with the drive to California, Duff lost his job as the Colonel's driver, and soon thereafter found himself in Viet Nam, driving a 2.5 ton truck for an Air Defense Artillery unit at Bien Hoa Airbase. Due to the size of the air base, and his job, he never had to be involved in serious combat, although he did witness some harrowing events at a comfortably long range.

Duff told me that he only fired his weapon, an M14, one time during any form of combat in his tour of duty. Through a lot of smoke and dust one or more Viet Cong guerillas were sighted, and he fired, but he said he didn't know if he hit any of them.

There was a time when his deaf ear came into play in a dramatic way. One morning he had been sleeping peacefully on his good ear, but when he turned over, he was suddenly wakened by the sound of nearby explosions. He saw that his barracks was empty, and fearing that the enemy might have broken into the airbase, he quickly donned his boots and trousers, put on his helmet, and rushed outside with his M14 held at the ready. When he emerged he found his barracks-mates sitting on the sandbag revetments surrounding the barracks, drinking beer and eating snacks as they watched the Bien Hoa Air Base ammo dump go up in smoke and explosions. A Viet Cong rocket barrage had set things off, and it was quite a fireworks show. His buddies were very amused at his sudden appearance as if ready for combat, and ribbed him about it many times in the coming weeks.

Among the interesting things he did as a 2 1/2 ton truck driver for the air defense artillery was one time painting his truck pink, and on another occasion, having become annoyed at the truck's wimpy engine, he stole a larger engine designed for a 5-ton truck and somehow managed to fit it into the engine compartment of his smaller truck. He apparently had the fastest deuce-and-a-half in the US Army at that point. Unfortunately the Army was not particular amused by any of this, and as soon as his pink truck was discovered he was made to repaint it olive drab. I understood that he managed to keep his truck super-powered for a time, but that was eventually discovered, too, and had to be put back in its "proper" state.

At the end of his two year's service in 1967 he was handed his Honorable Discharge, and was returned home to the United States. Actually, since his mother was then living in Toronto, Canada due to Don Clark's employment, he went there instead. Although it was a warm summer in Toronto, Duff had to wear sweaters because after the heat of Viet Nam, it was too cold for him -- at least until he acclimated to it.

Death

Smoking all his life had taken its toll, and even after quitting the habit breathing was still not easy. He maintained his sense of humor and fun through all the trouble, but eventually it all caught up with him. After nearly a month in the hospital, tied to an oxygen tube and getting very tired of it all, his heart grew too weak to continue pumping and was stilled in the early hours of 17 December 2014.