RIP Don West, aka Torch
By Yoav Gilad, Corvette Forum Editor
Don West was best known at CorvetteForum.com as “Torch” – a moniker he picked up because of his love for two of his conveyances – a Torch Red ’98 Corvette coupe and his airplane, a bright red Piper Super Cub dubbed Torch II.
Donald Dale West, 60, passed away silently in his sleep on March 2. He was married and had two children, but was loved by many people, most of whom had never met him. Indeed, Don (Torch) was an immensely popular CorvetteForum moderator who always had a story or photos to share about his hunting, fishing and flying adventures in the Alaskan wilderness.
When news of his passing spread online, hundreds of people, most who had never met him in person, expressed their condolences to his widow Debra. Seeking to recognize his contributions and honor his memory, friends on CorvetteForum immediately began an online thread to raise funds for a memorial bench to be installed as a tribute at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY. The bench was fully funded quickly with people donating according to their ability. One forum member, Jim Holmes (BuckyThreadKiller), donated his time and talent to design beautiful custom artwork to be engraved on the granite memorial bench as he has done on several previous memorial benches for CorvetteForum members.
In addition to donating time and money, forum members shared stories about Don. One person recounted how Torch helped encourage and support others when they were considering joining the U.S. Air Force, the branch of service from which Don retired before pursuing a career as an air traffic controller and flight instructor in Alaska.
Others, such as Jodi Martin (Yamahajo), recounted a trip to Alaska to visit Don and take him up on his standing offer to give any CorvetteForum members a ride in Torch II. Jodi said she remembers “hanging on and grinning ear to ear as we weaved through the trees above the heads of the moose below …” and then stopping for a beer in the sunlight at 3 a.m. during an Alaska summer. But perhaps John Hall (Silverback51) said it best: “It’s amazing how the passing of a man that most never met in person has affected so many. That right there says a lot about the gentleman.”
Rest in peace, Don. We lost you much too soon.