Lt. Col. Donald Jerome Thelen, a resident of Fort Walton Beach, FL, passed away on Monday, July 26th from complications from congestive heart failure at the age of 86. He was born in Frazee, MN to Loreen and Jerome Thelen. After high school, he joined the Air Force in the early ‘50s, with a distinguished 20+ year career as a pilot, ultimately attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He traveled the world and was a dedicated and heroic Airman. In his retirement, he loved to get out on the open road for long drives across the country and rued the day that he would ever have to give up his car or driving. Don had an impish sense of humor and kept any listener in rapt attention to stories of his many adventures. He was an attentive and loyal friend who went far out of his way to help those he cared for. When asked once to list his “dream job” he put “pilot”. Not many can claim to have made a career of their dream job, but he did and he missed it more than anything. 

Don was preceded in death by his mother, father, brothers Kenneth and Roger, ex-wife Philamena, and significant others Louise McCurdy and June Clifford. He is survived by his cousins, stepdaughter Christine, “adopted stepdaughter” Melanie DeVinney, and “grandsons” Wade, Dale, and Anson DeVinney who will all miss him terribly. 

Arrangements are being made under the direction of Emerald Coast Funeral Home. To share memories, express condolences, and sign the guestbook, please visit