Recently, Lipsitz & Ponterio had the opportunity to sit down and discuss the good old days in the City of Tonawanda with Donald Holdaway, a longtime volunteer firefighter. We talked about the years he served in the United States Army and Air Force, his volunteer work with Niagara Falls Volunteer Fire Company #3 and his memories of his other past employment.
Many readers of this newsletter may already know Don Holdaway as a sympathetic and caring fellow co-worker from their years of working at the Durez facility on Walck Road. Don has testified in numerous lawsuits on behalf of men sick and dying of asbestos-related diseases. Don grew up with three brothers and two sisters on River Road in Tonawanda, New York, not far from where he resides today. He enlisted in the United States Army on August 6, 1942, at the age of 18, and completed basic training in Miami Beach, Florida. Shortly after basic training, Don received orders to go overseas during World War II. He was stationed for two months in North Africa. Beginning in 1943, he was moved to India as part of the China-Burma Theater. While stationed in India, he serviced vehicles as a mechanic in a motor pool. Don met his wife Dorothea in India, where she was employed as the Adjutant General’s secretary of Allied Forces on the base where Don was stationed. They married on January 16, 1946, at St. Thomas Church in Calcutta, India. Mrs. Holdaway became an American citizen as a result of their marriage. Formerly a British subject, she was born, raised and educated in Calcutta. Shortly after they were married, Mr. and Mrs. Holdaway returned to the United States on a boat containing twenty-four war brides. It was at this time that Don attained the rank of Sergeant.
When Don returned to Tonawanda, New York, in 1946, he worked with his father for several months at the Batt Oil Company in North Tonawanda, followed by a brief employment at the Chevy Forge on River Road, before starting work at Durez.
At the time Don was hired at Durez in February 1947, the workers at the plant were represented by the International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE). Several years later, the IUE was ousted from the plant because of its alleged affiliation with the Communist Party, and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) took over representation of the workers. Don was originally hired as a B Pipefitter, but he held a variety of other positions until his retirement in 1983.
While Don was employed at Durez, he also served in the Air Force Reserves and was called to active duty in March 1951. He was stationed at the Niagara Falls Air Force Base, and he went from there to Korea, where he served for eight months during the Korean War.
Don began volunteering with Niagara Hose Volunteer Fire Company # 3 on Wheeler Street in the City of Tonawanda in February 1947. He remains an exempt volunteer fireman to this day and has also served as President of the Company.
In his spare time, Mr. Holdaway enjoys rebuilding a 1936 fire truck currently parked in the Niagara Hose Volunteer Fire Company’s garage. He also likes to volunteer and supervise design and construction at his church, St. Francis in Tonawanda, where numerous remodeling projects are taking place. Mr. and Mrs. Holdaway raised ten children in the home they still live in today.