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Life Story / Obituary
An energetic, generous, and compassionate woman, Donna Veneklasen devoted her life to serving others. Social by nature, she loved to entertain and hosted countless holiday parties over the years. Donna held many special interests over the years which she enjoyed with her loving husband, Marvin who was her steadfast companion. The two of them lived a beautiful life together where they traveled many of the United States’ most intriguing areas in California, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii. Internationally they vacationed together to countries such as China, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, Korea, and France. She was an active member of the community she loved and made many wonderful friendships over the years. Donna’s wonderful sense of humor and adventure will be deeply missed and fondly cherished in the hearts of her special friends and family.
Her story began back in the 1930s, it is difficult to recall much of anything that wasn’t affected by the Great Depression. There were few jobs and a soaring unemployment rate that left countless American families without homes. Despite these tough times, John Wesley and Agnes Marie (Morrissey) Van Koughnet celebrated with great joy the arrival of their newborn baby girl, Donna Elaine born on September 6, 1930, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. An only child, her birth brought much happiness and promise to their lives.
Growing up on the south side of Grand Rapids, on Shelby Street and later in Burton Heights, Donna lived a typical childhood of the times. She attended Sheldon Elementary and from a young age, Donna had a unique and special relationship with her parents. As a teenager, she was active and always on the go. Donna always seemed to know where to find the nearest venue in town to dance or hang out with friends. After graduating with the Class of 1948 from South High School, she took a job with Interstate Motor Freight.
Donna’s warm personality could land her a job pretty much anywhere and who knew that she’d also land the man of her dreams with working in the office at Westinghouse as a phone operator! Marvin Veneklasen was working at the company next door and would often stop in to purchase supplies from time to time. He was attracted to her from the very first sight of her! Her winning smile and charming personality won him over and gave him the courage to ask her out for dinner at a Chinese Restaurant where the rest was history! The Klise Chapel was the perfect setting for a beautiful wedding ceremony about one year later when they exchanged vows on September 21, 1957. The newlyweds honeymooned on a car trip through Canada including Niagara Falls, Toronto, and returning through Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula. Settling back in their apartment on the south-east side, they worked hard to save for their first home on Dorroll NE where they lived comfortably for fourteen years. By 1974, they moved to their home on Acacia Street where they remained together for the rest of her life. Due to the fact that Donna’s father passed away at a young age, her mother lived with her and Marvin for twenty-seven years. Donna kept busy working as a bookkeeper at C. Bell Chevrolet and later retired from Staal Buick by 1977. While working at Staal, Donna took note that the salesmen were able to vacation to the owner’s condominium in Florida, after approaching her boss about that luxury, he offered the same to her!
Retiring at a young age afforded Donna the time to pursue her many interests and become involved with her community. She played golf in women’s leagues and a couple’s league at the Elks Country Club. During the cold winter months, she and Marvin bowled at the club and shared many meals among friends. The ladies auxiliary club, the Daisy Chain, kept her busy. She also enjoyed knitting afghans, playing cards, and shopping. She and Marvin both enjoyed cooking, mostly meat and potato type dishes and shared a love of fine dining at their favorite restaurants, Sayfee’s and Duba’s. Comfortable on the dance floor, they never missed an opportunity to dance and looked forward to Pulaski Day each year. As an active member of the West Michigan Jazz Society for more than thirty years, it was no surprise that they attended many of the summer concerts at the John Ball Band Shell and loved the music of the big band era.
Donna was a very compassionate person. She held an especial fondness for dogs throughout her entire life. She would tenderly accept strays into their home and enjoyed the companionship that her furry friends gave her. In addition to dogs, Donna was indeed a people person. She wanted nothing more than to spend time with friends talking and laughing. Friends of Donna’s were blessed with a loyalty that was like no other. There simply wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for others and she never held a grudge. Sadly, Donna’s health issues increased over the years, and there was nothing more sacred than the way that Marvin cared for her. He tended to her every need making sure that her end of days were held with the greatest amount of loving care. Donna’s rich collection of memories will be a comfort to all those who were touched by her love and friendship.
Donna Elaine Veneklasen, age 87 of Grand Rapids, passed away October 20, 2017. She recently celebrated 60 years of marriage with her beloved husband, Marvin, and is also survived by numerous friends. Most important to Donna were the people in her life and the activities that brought people together, including golfing, bowling, gathering at her home and dancing (especially the Jitterbug). She and Marvin were active with the Elk's Lodge and were charter members of the West Michigan Jazz Society. The service to remember and celebrate Donna’s life will be held on Tuesday, October 24, 2017, at 11 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW where friends are invited to visit together on Monday from 3-6 PM. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Faith Hospice are appreciated. To share a memory or photo about Donna's life, or to sign her guestbook, visit www.lifestorynet.com