Ex-RAF pilot was a witty storyteller
Donald L.C. Bishop cheated death at least three times as a bomber pilot in the British Royal Air Force when his planes were shot down during World War II.
Later, a sense of adventure brought him to the United States where he spent his leisure time sailing on Lake Erie and his work hours running Pittsburgh’s annual boat, auto, RV and home shows.
Mr. Bishop, of Penn Hills and formerly of Fox Chapel, both in Allegheny County, died Friday, Nov. 7, 2003, at Forbes Hospice. He was 80.
Family and friends said they often were enthralled with Mr. Bishop’s adventure stories about surviving the war, assaying gold in Africa, leading tour groups in Northern Italy, making stained glass windows in Pittsburgh and sailing.
Born in Croydon, England, Mr. Bishop lied about his age to join the RAF at age 16, his wife, Ann K. Bishop, said. Despite being shot down more than once, he returned to pilot other planes.
“The British treated it very differently than the Americans,” his wife said. “You were expected to go back up.”
Mary Beth Phillips, a family friend who lives in Penn Hills, recalled how she and her husband often spent weekends with the Bishops, sailing on Lake Erie. After traveling all day to Toronto, Canada, or other distant ports, Mr. Bishop regaled his companions with witty stories, she said.
At one port, a man noticed the Royal Air Force flag that always hung on the 32-foot sailboat and approached Mr. Bishop to thank him for saving his life, Phillips said. As a boy in Europe, the man had survived on food rations dropped by British pilots, but had never been able to thank any of them.
Jillian Costic, of Oakmont, Allegheny County, worked with Mr. Bishop to put on the local trade shows, and recalled he was as good a listener as talker. When any exhibitor voiced a problem or concern, he made a point of hearing them out.
“He would sit there and let them talk, get it all out,” Costic said. “He was very calm about it, about assuring people. He was pretty cool.”
Mr. Bishop is survived by his wife, Ann K. Bishop; sons William and Scott Bishop, of Tampa, Fla.; a daughter, Patricia Fairchild, of Houston; a stepdaughter, Audra Ritter, of Jefferson Hills, Allegheny County; five grandchildren; and two stepgrandchildren. In addition to his parents, William L. and Vivienne Lovegrove Bishop, he was predeceased by a sister, Joyce Frampton.
Funeral arrangements are private. The family suggests memorial contributions to Forbes Hospice or the Penn Hills Library.