Donald Marks

June 4, 1924 - Feb. 14, 2016
Donald Marks June 4, 1924 - Feb. 14, 2016

Donald M. Marks, a decorated World War II veteran and longtime principal in the New York public school system, died on Valentine’s Day in a hospice in Potomac, Md. At 91, he had fallen several times over the past few years, most recently a few weeks ago. After being treated for his injuries, he died in his sleep. 

Born in Manhattan to the former Helen Klein and Alfred Marks on June 4, 1924, he grew up in Washington Heights, before his family moved to Queens. As a child, he spent a year in bed with tuberculosis. During that time, he wrote a letter to the New York Yankees. In return, he received what became one of his most prized possessions, a baseball signed by Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, and the rest of the team. When he turned 18, he enlisted in the Army.

Recognizing his intelligence, the Army made him a sergeant. While not in the initial first wave of the invasion, he landed on the Normandy shore on the fourth day after D-Day. His unit continued as part of the movement toward Berlin. He was assigned to Enigma, the code-breaking machine that gave the Allies the advantage of knowing German plans in advance. He was eventually stationed in occupied Germany.

After his service he returned home to Queens, then enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania on the G.I. Bill. After two years there, he transferred to Columbia University. Eventually, he earned a master’s degree in English.

During the summer of ’49, while working as a head counselor at an upstate New York summer camp owned by his uncle, he met Suzanne Schweiger, a senior at Hunter High School. They were married the next year.

The couple first moved into her parents’ Park Avenue apartment, before moving out on their own to Kew Gardens. They had one child, now Nina Rosen, who lives in McLean, Va. 

Mr. Marks became principal at P.S. 171 in Astoria. During summers off, the couple would vacation on the Costa del Sol in Spain. They bought a house there, but sold it in favor of one on Treescape Drive in East Hampton’s Northwest Woods, where they began spending summers and weekends.

Mr. Marks began writing letters to The East Hampton Star not long after buying the house. A file in The Star archives is thick with clippings covering many topics.  

He wrote a “Guestwords” column on Joe DiMaggio, the great Yankees centerfielder, and submitted many poems to The Star’s letters pages. 

After he retired, the couple began to split their time between Boca Raton, Fla., and East Hampton.

Besides his love of the English language, his daughter said yesterday, he was an avid runner. He completed the New York City Marathon at the age of 68, and continued to run in races in East Hampton and Florida until just a few years ago.

France bestowed upon him the French Legion Medal of Honor about five years ago, his daughter said yesterday.

His wife died in early 2013, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where he will join her in the next two or three months. A ceremony in his honor will be held at that time.

The family gathered in a private ceremony at Ms. Rosen’s house recently.

Beside Ms. Rosen, he is survived by two granddaughters.