Wings and The King

Donald Rosendale, a resident at The Chelsea at Manalapan, is laser-focused on the cards he has protectively covered by his hands as he contemplates the odds of beating this former professional Atlantic City casino dealer in front of him. He pulls the tabs back of his cards to take another peak, throws a few more chips in to raise, and awaits the dealer’s next turn.

The card is revealed, Rosendale wins the pot, and he is delighted. By many respects, Rosendale has had many wins throughout his life.

Now at one of Monmouth County’s leading Assisted Living communities, Rosendale, 87, remembers a life full of accomplishments.

He graduated as one of the top students in his class at Ridgewood High School nearly 70 years ago. His dad wanted him to go to Princeton, but he was looking to go a little farther from home. He chose Cornell.

While he regularly had visions of becoming a pilot, he enrolled at the school with the intent of going into chemical engineering. It only took a semester for him to decide it wasn’t for him and he switched to business economics.

Donald Rosendale was in the Air Force for five years traveling all over the world while transporting soldiers, including Elvis Presley.

And then, the Korean War happened. Rosendale joined the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) so he could avoid the draft and complete his education. While receiving his degree was important to him, he felt equally gratified in being able to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot.

But when he went down to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas, they informed him his vision wasn’t 20/20 and that was, and still is, a requirement to become a pilot. A crushing blow, but not a complete loss. He was assigned as a navigator instead and earned his Wings, a badge of honor for all airmen in the military.

“It’s a big deal,” he said. “It means you got to fly all the time, even though I wasn’t a pilot, and you got extra pay.”

Transporting the King

During his five years in the Air Force, Rosendale traveled the world. He estimates that he had been to “about 20 different countries” while executing missions and performing his duties.

He was part of Military Air Transport Service (MATS) with a mission of transporting soldiers from one place to another. But, on one occasion, during a pick-up in Frankfurt, Germany, Elvis Presley walked on the plane – The King of Rock and Roll.

After two years in the Army, Elvis had been relieved of service.

“He was just another passenger on the plane with about 40 other G.I.’s,” Rosendale said.

Rosendale said he shook his hand, welcomed him onto the plane, and that was it. They arrived at McGuire Air Force Base in Southern New Jersey where Elvis got off and officially left the building.

Business with Dad and New Beginnings

After Rosendale left the Air Force, he joined his dad as co-owners of a paint manufacturing company called Eastern Paint and Varnish in Hawthorne, New Jersey.

His dad had the sales sense and Rosendale took care of operations. Being business partners with dad wasn’t a dream growing up in Glen Rock, New Jersey, but he enjoyed it and had success.

Rosendale sold the business after 20 years.

Afterward, he spent some time as a real estate agent, but he soon retired and settled down in Jackson, New Jersey so he could be close to the oldest of his four sons.

New Friends, One Big Family

It was Rosendale’s oldest son who helped him find and move into The Chelsea at Manalapan.

It took some time, naturally, for Rosendale to adjust to his new environment, especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he’s much more comfortable now than he was before.

Rosendale enjoying Casino Day at The Chelsea at Manalapan

“I think I’ve made some really good friends down here already,” Rosendale said.

And he hopes to continue to make friends. He’s only been at The Chelsea for a few months but it’s starting to feel like home.

He credits that to the people he’s surrounded by – from the residents to the staff.

It’s just another win for Rosendale.


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