Donna M. Gilbertson, 85

Published 8:41 am Thursday, November 2, 2017

Donna M. Gilbertson, 85

Donna M. Gilbertson, 85, of Austin, Minnesota, died Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, at St. Mark’s Lutheran Home.

Donna Mae Schmidt was born Oct. 14, 1932, on a farm near Riceville, Iowa, the daughter of Adolph and Bernice (Hatcher) Schmidt. Her parents were preparing for ministry in South Dakota, so Donna’s earliest memories were of campus life, long halls, and nursery school. Thus began her love of learning. Donna also lived in Riceville and Cedar Falls, Iowa. Following her parents’ deaths, she lived with her Uncle George and Aunt Marian Schmidt on their farm northeast of Riceville. Donna attended country school and it was there that she became fascinated with the process of teaching nine grades in one room. In sixth grade, she began tutoring kindergarten to third-grade students in reading, math, social studies, and science, and helping with other classroom tasks. Donna loved helping others learn. Following her 1950 graduation from Riceville High School, she attended Luther College, obtaining a teaching certificate in the fall of 1951. She taught in rural schools in Howard and Mitchell counties for five years, then moved to Seattle Pacific College in Washington to finish her last two years of college. Following her 1958 graduation, she taught north of Everett, Washington, for a year, then returned to Iowa, where she taught in Riceville, Mason City, and Waukon.

On Jan. 28, 1978, Donna married Chester J. Gilbertson at the Little Brown Church in Nashua, Iowa. After moving to Austin, Donna commuted to Riceville for 13 years to continue her teaching career. In 1990, she took early retirement and for the first time was outside of the classroom. She was an avid traveler and loved to read, entertain, and garden extensively, until back problems prevented her from continuing. Volunteer work and church activities, such as Bible study, Sunday school and music ministry, filled her life after Chet’s death. She continued her love of travel through books, videos, and by reviewing slides from previous trips. Donna loved Chet’s sons, Dan and Ted, and their families as if they were her own. She leaves them memories of bear hugs, cookie factories, and sleepovers.

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Survivors include Chet’s sons, Daniel (Dixie) Gilbertson and Ted (Roxann) Gilbertson, both of Austin; their four children, Nick, Kris, Sheila, and Dan; great-grandson, Noah; cousins, Bonnie Boe and Lucille “Evelyn” VanHouse, both of Austin; other relatives and many friends who will all miss her dearly. Donna was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Chet in January 1997; and her nurturing Uncle George and Aunt Marian.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Austin. Visitation will be at the church from 10-11 a.m. Interment in Oakwood Cemetery. Memorials can be directed to Holy Cross Lutheran Church.

Worlein Funeral Home of Austin is assisting the family.  Condolences may be expressed to the family online at