In Memory: Donna M. Wakefield

Donna M. Wakefield, a lifelong East-Sider, died at age 79 on March 6 from breast cancer.

She was born April 6, 1932, to Carl and Hildred Whittaker in St. Paul. A 1950 graduate of Johnson High School, she married her best friend, Wallace (Wally) Wakefield, on June 15, 1957, at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church on the East Side. The couple were actually married in the school, as the church had not yet been completed; Donna was a charter member of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Donna's life was dedicated to helping others. For many years she was a busy stay-at-home mother juggling the schedules of five active children, volunteering at her church and leading Camp Fire Girl troops.

She improved the lives of many through her more than 60 years of philanthropic work with the Alpha Chi chapter of the Epsilon Sigma Alpha sorority, a national service organization. She helped lead various local projects to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and assisted in providing services for those in need and fostering literacy initiatives.

"Nationally, the sorority raised enough funds to build a wing on the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Danny Thomas was so impressed that the came to their state conventions," recalls her husband, Wally.

The couple visited the Memphis-based hospital three years ago and the staff was so appreciative of Donna's tireless fundraising efforts that "they treated her as if she was a queen," her husband remembers. "It was great to have her recognized for her many years of effort."

Prior to the birth of her first child, she was employed at First Trust Company, and when the children left for college, she worked in the front office as a secretary at Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 10 in Maplewood.

Her husband credits her with being the "cornerstone and cement that molded and held our family together. She was a superb foundation for our kids to grow on, and to her credit, all of them graduated from a college or university."

Her many friendships ran deep. Everyone whose life was touched by her was blessed by her generous spirit, irrepressible bravery and unforgettable humor.

Through her example of caring and courage, her family members say they will persist in her absence and be strengthened and comforted by the love that surrounded and radiated from her throughout her life.

She is survived by her best friend and husband of nearly 55 years, Wally. She is also survived by children: Peter (Valerie Loichot), Beth (Jode Fritz), Bonnie, Laura (Randy Kovars), and Lynn (Steve Hennen); grandchildren: Daniel Paladie, Alanna and Bailey Hennen, Virginia and Carl Fritz, Zoe and Nathan Wakefield.

The family expresses special thanks to Dr. John Wangsness, Kris Gilleo, Quynh Nguyen and the entire staff at MOPHA for providing exceptional oncological care for more than eight years.

A traditional Catholic funeral service was held March 12 at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, with burial at Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul.

Memorials are preferred to Our Lady of Peace Home, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital or the charity of the donor's choice.

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