Donna Lee Russell October 9, 1941 to June 14, 2017
Donna Lee Russell arrived October 9, 1941 at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, on the cusp of WWII. She was the “war baby” whose father Claude carried a lock of her golden hair into combat. During the war she lived with her mother Bettye, Grandma Schmidt, and Uncle Phil, her best buddy and “partner in crime.” She was a happy-go-lucky little gal, a jokester with a vivid imagination and flair for storytelling. One day she spotted her daddy walking toward the house and ran excitedly to tell her mom. Bettye thought Donna was spinning a tall tale and was about to scold her when Claude appeared at the door. Donna’s daddy really was home from the war.
Post-war, spanning over a decade with moves from San Antonio to New Braunfels to Rosenberg, sisters Patsy and Claudia and her brother Mike joined the family. There was no shortage of family challenges but there was an abundance of fun to be had along the Guadalupe River and down the Texas Gulf Coast. Being near those waters brought a lot of peace and joy to the family.
Donna was married June 17, 1961 to Ross Russell and lived in Beaumont, Texas for forty plus years volunteering countless hours, teaching vacation bible school and bible studies in the church, actively working in the family business, and raising their only child, David, who was the center of her life. Donna moved to Kingwood, Texas in 2004 and enjoyed being near her four grandchildren, Trace, Nathan, Payton, and Shane. And especially her daughter-in-law Stacey whom she cherished as the daughter she never had and who later cared for Donna as if she were her own mother. Donna was a devoted wife, incredible mother, loving Christian, caring neighbor, and held her sweet disposition through the end.
Donna enjoyed cooking, sewing, decorating, and arts and crafts. It’s no secret that she modeled Bettye’s skill in the kitchen, but she owned exclusive rights to those unbelievably delicious desserts. Oh, those chocolate chip cookies and especially the pies! Apple, pecan, and chocolate-pecan, which was always a favorite! Away from the kitchen, Donna’s keen eye for color and fashion translated into sewing projects that were nothing short of perfection. There wasn’t a sibling, grandchild, niece, or nephew who wasn’t on the receiving end of Donna’s sewing. Outside the home, she was a bookkeeper, member of Beta Sigma Phi civic sorority, a Red Cross volunteer, and a Bible Study Fellowship leader.
Donna liked what she called “running the roads.” There were family vacations in New Braunfels and weekends at Lake Sam Rayburn, trips to College Station to visit David during college, as well as a trip to Graceland with Patsy (she LOVED Elvis!). In her later years, she accompanied Claudia to their dad’s Army reunions, to Broadway musicals, and to art and history museums. She enjoyed holidays and other special occasions with her family and was always content to sit with a lapful of lovable doggies.
More important than a summary of Donna’s life is her character and personality. She was a Christian who strived to live her faith in thought, word, and deed. When she stumbled, she picked herself up and kept going, to do better, to be better. To describe her, family and friends use words like joyful, outgoing, comedic, protective, and nurturing. She was a resilient woman, generous and compassionate, more patient than not, and more forgiving than most. She was gracious and loving and will be missed by all who came to know her.