‘Gold Star’ banner leads to series of good deeds

Dave Donley drops off items to Shirley Woessner of Bowling Green Christian Food Pantry.


BG Independent News


Air Force Major Phillip Donley was killed 46 years ago when a F4 Phantom fighter bomber crashed in Germany. Since then, a Gold Star banner has hung on his family’s front door in Bowling Green.

For years, the banner on the Clough Street home has gone unnoticed by many. But on Veterans Day this past Saturday, a group of young men – some in their military uniforms – knocked on the door of Dave Donley and Karen Wood.

“I was just sitting here reading,” on Saturday morning, Donley said. When he opened the door, there were 20 young men in a line on the sidewalk. The men, who are members of Phi Delta Theta fraternity at BGSU, had noticed the Gold Star on the front door.

“We wanted to let you know how much we appreciate your family,” Donley said the members told him.

The young men gave Donley, Phillip’s brother, a hand-written note and a gift card.

“We have been living across the street from you for most of this year,” the letter stated. “As many of us have served or are serving, we could not help but notice your Gold Star flag on your front door. We aren’t all here for Memorial Day, but we are here on this day. Therefore, we would like to take a moment to honor you. While it may not be much, we hope you will take this gift and use it for whatever you may need.”

Signed, “the gentlemen of Phi Delta Theta” listing names of five members and their military rank.

“I’m standing there on my front porch, thinking ‘Wow.’ What a nice bunch of guys,” Donley said. “Quite frankly, we don’t always hear the best things out of fraternities on campus.”

He called his wife, Karen Wood, to the door. “Oh, come on,” she said in disbelief.

But the polite young men thanked the family for their sacrifice and then handed the couple a $72 gift card for Walmart.

It didn’t take the couple long to decided how to put the gift card to the best use.

“We decided to buy stuff for one of the local food pantries,” Donley said. “I know they do a lot of stuff for homeless veterans.”

After consulting with the Bowling Green Christian Food Pantry, Donley and Wood loaded up a shopping cart at Walmart with the most needed items – toiletries like soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

But as they left Walmart, the couple decided to do more. They then went to Kroger and tripled the original donation on other toiletries and food to take to the food pantry. “We filled up another cart at Kroger,” Donley said.

“It seemed like such an amazing thing and then to get it all done on Veteran’s Day,” Donley said.

And since Saturday, other family members have committed to doing the same in honor of Phillip Donley, who is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery on the north side of BGSU. Phillip Donley, a 1964 BGSU graduate, is among those “fallen heroes” listed on a plaque in Memorial Hall.

And the Air Force flight surgeon is still remembered by the Gold Star hanging on the door of his family’s home at the corner of Clough Street and South College Street.

“It was important to my mom when my parents lived in this house,” Donley said.

The Fallen Heroes list honoring Phillips and all 111 of BGSU’s fallen service members is the result of the loss of one of Phi Delta Theta’s fraternity brothers, according to Dave Ridenour, of the Bowling Green American Legion Post.

CPT Mike Medders was a 2005 BGSU Army ROTC graduate killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2008.

“It was his loss that had me asking what we needed to do to add his name to the Memorial Hall plaque,” Ridenour said. “That is when I discovered that the plaque had never been updated since its dedication in 1961. That led to the three years of research that culminated in the adding of 25 names to Memorial Hall in 2011 to include MAJ Donley and CPT Medders.”