Donna Loy Reese was born on September 7, 1922, in Mitchell, South Dakota, to Herbert Stockton and Elizabeth Erazim Reese. Her dear brothers Herbert Erazim and Richard Miles were born seven and eight years later. Their mother Elizabeth died nursing her boys during the spinal meningitis outbreak. At the age of twelve, Donna took over mothering her brothers and keeping house as their father struggled to keep the family together during the Depression. The siblings especially enjoyed spending holidays and summer time with their Erazim grandparents and cousins on the family farm in Ravenna, Nebraska.
In 1951, Donna married Lieutenant Commander and Omaha attorney James A. C. ‘Jack’ Kennedy Jr., and by 1960 their five children had been born. In their twenty-two year marriage, they focused on family. Donna brought her tremendous energy, organizational abilities and heart to create traditions: Sunday brunch and dinner with grandfather Kennedy, elaborate birthday celebrations and holidays with Reese and Kennedy grandparents, picnic lunches at the tennis courts, killer wahoo games and neighborhood pranks. Jack died in 1974, and with courage, resolve, good judgment and humor, she raised their children.
Donna married Albert Gerard ‘Duke’ Schatz in 1980, and they truly enjoyed five years of companionship, humor, entertaining, travel, golf (ahem), games, family and friends before his death in 1985.
Donna was a tremendous friend, leader and entertainer. She ran a cub scout den. She co-founded and led the Duchesne Boutique and Daisy Parade tour of homes and chaired Duchesne’s first gala at the Union Pacific Station. She led numerous other organizations including The Crook House, St. Joseph’s Hospital gift shop, and Christ Child Society, and volunteered for many more. Over the years she participated in a myriad of clubs, making and keeping friends for decades. Sewing club, Birthday Group, multiple book clubs, Drinking Club, bridge groups, Art Guild, SABAB (Sunday Afternoon Bridge and Backgammon), and Church Circles. She was a member of St. Margaret Mary’s Church for seventy years. She hosted countless dinner parties.
The following is a statement from her grandchildren.
Donna’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren have spread far and wide, truly covering all corners of the globe. Yet, her unwavering commitment to a cohesive family has created bonds across generations and geographies. The consummate matriarch, Donna carefully connected her family over decades through summer reunions, Christmas gatherings, and innumerable helpings of fresh baked cookies, buttermilk pancakes, and chocolate fudge sauce. We are grateful to enjoy relationships as deep and wide as those Donna fostered within her family. Each grandchild has grown up with cousins and aunts and uncles whom they know, love and trust, a family that extends beyond the immediate but feels just as connected. All thanks to Grandma.
Donna instilled in her grandchildren the importance of playfulness, chocolate, and wholehearted love. She could often be found sporting a charcoal mustache[a] and a handmade paper hat during family reunions, or taunting her competition during a turn in the family game of Wahoo. Her competitive streak aside, Donna was always ready with a wink and a chuckle, teaching her grandkids through words and actions to have purpose but never to take life too seriously. Donna built strong relationships with each of her grandkids, ensuring that each felt individually loved, understood and worthy of the pride she had in them. She was our first phone call, whether it was a joyful announcement of a college acceptance or new baby, or a seeking of comfort following a loss or a broken heart. She was a haven to all, welcoming loved ones with open arms, sage advice and a mixing spoon of cookie dough. She always knew to seek out those who needed an extra dose of love, warming them up with lightheartedness, calm perception, conversation, or the simplicity of a quiet shared reading nook. She knew us, and loved us, perfectly.
Donna was predeceased by her husbands, her brother and sister-in-law Herb and Virginia Reese, and her god-daughter Mary Reese Brake, her in-laws J.A.C. Kennedy Sr., James and Ann Marie Kennedy Hauck, and Jean Kennedy Mason.
She is survived by her brother and sister-in-law Rich and Tommye Reese; children Ann Kennedy (Geoffrey Walker), J.A.C. (Jim) Kennedy III (Maureen), Catherine Kennedy (Daniel Grossman), Michael Kennedy (Louisa Heard), and Jean Kennedy (Thomas Hearn); her grand-children Nicholas Walker, Lucy Walker (Brian Williams), Alec Walker, Katherine Kennedy Reinemund (Jonathan), Sara Kennedy (Andrew York), Emily Grossman (Daniel Philpot), Jesse Rowbotham, Nathan Grossman (Carolina), Ian Rowbotham (Helen),Rebecca Grossman (Joey Mezzatesta), James Grossman, Callan Kennedy, Jack Kennedy, Connor Kennedy, Brendan Hearn, and Sophie Hearn; her great-grandchildren Clara and Emeline Walker, Brooklyn, Zoe and Hazel Reinemund, Cora Williams, and James and Caleb York; numerous nieces and nephews, great-nieces and nephews, and great-great nieces and nephews; and her friend of sixty-five years, Emily Kemp.
The family would like to thank Dr. Mary Finnegan and her staff, Donna’s special aides from Home Instead, and the Visiting Nurses Association Hospice team for their devotion to and kind care of Donna. The family also thanks the staff at Swanson Towers. Finally, a special thanks goes to Fran Coren and Kerri DeNell.
PRIVATE FAMILY SERVICES ARE BEING HELD.
You may view the Services after 2pm on Saturday January 2, at the following link:
IN LIEU OF FLOWERS, the family suggests that contributions in honor of Donna can be made to St. Margaret Mary’s Church, Christ Child Society, Duchesne Academy, or Siena/Francis House.
John A. Gentleman Mortuaries and Crematory
1010 North 72 Street
Omaha, Nebraska 68114