A View from Broadway

Don McKay on the field of the 2007 Top Dog Combat contest in Snohomish, Wash. Mel Lyne photo.

'Combat Monster' Don McKay dies

By Ken Burdick

Control-line flier Don McKay, of Redmond, Wash., died in his sleep at 2 a.m. on April 7, 2020

Don, known as the "Combat Monster," suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s but developed lung cancer that metastasized and entered his brain. He died in hospice.

Don McKay flies out the tank after the end of a
Vintage Diesel Combat Match against Gene Pape
at the 2008 Northwest Regionals. Flying Lines photo.

Don was a model airplane flyer of great reputation in the 1960s in the Seattle area.

We grew up together in Seattle and were close friends. I remember we would read model airplane magazines and dream about going to the Nationals, but had no support or enough money to do that, instead we organized the Broadway Bod Busters and held many Combat and Rat Race contests. Both he and I would ask local hobby shops for donations, and they always came through.

We had no means of transportation and would usually walk to save bus fare for our hobby. Walking 10 miles didn’t phase us in the least, it just gave us time to plan and share thoughts about what we would do when we grew up. At one point, we decided we were going to be chefs.

Don was the sparkplug behind the Jerobee R/C/ car company. He and John Congden bought it from Rocket Research in the early 1970s. The company was named JoMac and together they built a real going concern. Don had dyslexia and could never read well. He didn’t know exactly why so he made up for it by overachieving, and he did well by most standards.

I lost track of Don for several years, but he contacted me after reading about how I had re-formed the Broadway Bod Busters, and asked if he could be included in the new team. He told me the story made him cry. So, Don retaught himself to fly competitively and did well, wining at the Nationals and many local contests in both Fast, and what turned out to be one of his favorite events, Vintage Diesel Combat.

I took Don with me to the Northwest Regionals Championships in 2019. Don, while diminished, loved seeing everyone and remembering when he was a “player.”

To all who took the time to say hello to him, that was an act of kindness he remembered. When we were young men, Don, his wife Harriet, myself and my wife Susan, stood in line to see the very first Star Wars. We brought dinner and ate in line with the throng of others waiting hours to get in. I saw Don in March and he could still walk then. I asked him if there was anything he would like to do. He looked at me and said, “I want to go see the new Star Wars movie.” So, the next day, we went to the movies. He ate a little popcorn and a sip or two of coke. Don always included me, though we never said so until I last saw him, we both considered each other as brothers.

Goodbye Don, I will miss you.

-- Kennyb

Don launches a Vintage Diesel Combat plane. Gene Pape photo.

Don's in the center of this photo of the 1971 Broadway Bod Busters.

The Bod Busters at Delta Park in Portland in 2007, from left: Ken Burdick, Jeff Rein, Don McKay, Buzz Wilson. Flying Lines photo.

The Bod Busters clowning for a Speed pull test at the 2010 Northwest Regionals: From left, Burdick, McKay, Rein. Flying Lines photo.

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This page was upated April 7, 2020