‘The Legend’ is remembered

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 11:15am

The plaque reads: “He loved reading, Block Island and the Island Free Library,” but that’s only part of the story. 

Donald B. McKinnon died two years ago after a long, valiant fight with cancer. Vin McAloon dubbed Don “The Legend,” but few people knew the reason behind the name. Don was one of the greatest football players to ever come out of New England and the Ivy League. A 1962 first team All-American at Dartmouth College, McKinnon played both center and linebacker and he was elected first team All-East, All-Ivy and All-New England. He won the Bulger Lowe Award that year as the best college football player in New England, and the Golden Trophy as the best Catholic collegiate football player in the nation. In 1963 he signed and played with the Boston (now New England) Patriots in the AFL for several seasons. 

After a successful career on Wall Street, Don enjoyed many cameo appearances in movies starring the Wilson brothers, Owen and Luke, sons of Don’s good friend, Bobby Wilson. He enjoyed winters in the hills of Woodside, Calif., on the San Francisco peninsula with his good friends the Krummes and drove cross country every summer to his favorite second home, Block Island. 

“Uncle Donnie,” as he was known on the island, drove a cab with his signature chewed-but-never-lit cigar. His fares never lacked for a good tale spun by a master storyteller and much of his material came from breakfasts at the round table at Bethany’s Airport Diner. The last few winters were spent on the island with Don’s sister and brother-in-law, Gail and Denny Heinz, and their extended Block Island family. Much of his time was spent in his favorite chair at the Island Free Library. Don finally succumbed to cancer on Jan. 25, 2015. His caretakers, friends and relatives gathered at the Island Cemetery for a send-off befitting an All American.  

A beautiful, handcrafted mantle designed and built by Block Island artisan Tony Howe, has just been installed at the fireplace in the Island Free Library and a fund specifically donated by his Dartmouth friends and classmates is earmarked for the purchase of more of Don’s favorite reading material, fiction. Don’s friends, relatives and special friends at the Island Free Library invite and encourage all visitors to Block Island, and to the Island Free Library to “sit a spell” in Uncle Donnie’s favorite chair in his favorite room in his favorite reading place.

For those wishing to do so, please make donations in Donald’s memory to The Island Free Library, PO Box 1830, Block Island, R.I. 02807.