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510 Whites Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Life Story / Obituary
In a fast-paced world where it seems as though life's daily hassles consume much of our time, so few are the people that really take the time to embrace the hearts of their family and friends and all of life's simple pleasures. Donna is one of those people who no matter what was happening around her, never forgot to bask in the joy of everyday life. Donna found so much happiness in being a mother, grandmother, wife, and friend, and never got so caught up in today that she forgot about all the days that came before. Whether it was a friend from long ago or a far away place in time, Donna always took the time to remember and, more importantly, to care.
Long before southwestern Michigan was dissected by highways and subdivisions and shopping malls covered the landscape, was a time when prairie grass grew far and wide and oak trees outnumbered people. At the dawn of the twentieth century, farming was the mainstay of these rural communities that began springing up across southern Lower Michigan. However, by January of 1920, Kalamazoo had grown into a bustling city and the nearby farmsteads were reaping the profits. Located just west of Kalamazoo is the rural town of Lawton, and this is where on January 17, 1920 in a farmhouse just south of town, Theron and Hilda (Knapp) Prindle proudly welcomed the birth of their daughter Donna Jean.
Donna was only nine years old when she and her family were faced with the enduring hardships and struggles of the depression era. Despite the turmoil that struck at the hearts of many American families, farm life provided a haven for the Prindle family. No matter what there was always food on the table, which at that time was more than most city dwellers could say. Growing up Donna admired her father, he was not only a provider for her and her siblings during difficult times, but he was also her hero. Donna's mother also worked hard at keeping the family afloat during these years. When gypsies camped out near the farm to steal the chickens, instead of getting angry, Hilda cooked extra food at dinnertime and placed meals on a blanket so that they would leave the chickens alone and not go hungry. Having a large barn with plenty of rafters was ideal for a very adventurous young Donna who loved to climb around in the hayloft. In the winters she remembered taking sleigh rides to visit her grandparents on the Prindle side, while summer vacations were spent on Gravel Lake at Streeter Beach. Even as she got older, she always looked back at her time on the farm with great fondness.
In 1937 Donna graduated from Lawton High School and enrolled at Hillsdale College. Shortly after she began taking classes, she was called home. One of her siblings had fallen ill and, with the added cost of care, Donna's parents couldn't bear the expense of having a child in college. With the arrival of the 1940s, Donna became a big fan of big band music, including swing, and dance crazes were all the rage. Donna liked attending dances of most any kind, and it was at one of these dances in nearby Kalamazoo that she met her first husband, Loral Bullard. In July of 1946 Donna and Loral made it official and took their vows in the city where they had met.
While living in Portage, Donna and Loral had two children a son, Scott, and a daughter, Hilye. As a new wife and mother, Donna stayed at home raising the children. Loral was an avid hunter and outdoorsman and she would often prepare meals with the bounty of his hunt. Donna was a whiz in the kitchen, not only could she turn fresh meat into a masterpiece, but she could also bake a fabulous cherry pie and her homemade caramel ice cream was sensational. In the summers the family would hit the road in their travel trailer, over the years vacationing in many different states. The Smokey Mountains was one of Donna's favorite spots and held a special place in her heart. Once the children entered school and she had more time her hands, she returned to her job at the Upjohn Co.
In the mid-1970s Donna and Loral decided to go their separate ways and, after almost 30 years of being a wife, Donna faced her new life as a single woman with courage. Dressed in white and looking quite stunning, Donna went to a singles dance at Parkview Hills. While at the dance, a man spilled his glass of red wine down the front of Donna's white outfit. Lucky for the man, whose name she discovered was Jim Fleming, she found him to be handsome and charming in addition to clumsy and a romance was kindled. After a few years of dating, Donna and Jim were hopelessly in love and ready to get married. After their wedding, the couple built a condo in Parkview Hills. In the mid-eighties, after a rewarding and illustrious 30-year career at Upjohn, Donna decided to retire and focus her sights on more leisurely pursuits like family and travel. The first big move after retirement came when she and Jim decided to spend their winters in the warm climate of Sun City, Arizona. One of the couple's favorite annual events was hitting Churchill Downs with a group of friends for a day of mint juleps, funny hats, and horse racing at the Kentucky Derby. While at home, Donna's hobby was sewing. She was an excellent seamstress and could make most anything with a needle and thread.
Donna was the type of woman who never forgot where she came from or the people she knew. If you had an open ear and a few hours to spare, Donna would not pass up the chance to tell you about her hometown of Lawton. Even as both times and people changed and years passed since her days in high school, she loved to go back and reminisce with old friends at her high school reunions. Whether you were a friend she met one year ago or fifty years ago, friendship was important to Donna and she maintained many special lifelong relationships.
Throughout her life, Donna was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and she exemplified each of the principles that they value, "charity, truth and loving kindness." She was also a faithful attendee and devoted member of the Episcopal Church, in both Kalamazoo and Arizona. More than any organization or establishment, Donna most enjoyed being a member of a club open, by personal choice, to all women everywhere, and that was being a mother. The greatest day of her life was the day she became a mom. With endless rewards and no real disappointments, to Donna being a mother was her life's ambition, her greatest achievement, and her hearts one true delight. And, with grandchildren and great grandchildren, it is, perhaps, the only gift that never stops giving. Jim always called Donna "Sunshine" and it is a name that suited her well. Now with her passing, it is that same warm and loving personality which earned her this nickname that will continue to color the memories, brighten the days, and warm the hearts of all who knew her.
Donna P. Fleming, age 86, passed away May 12, 2006 at Bronson Methodist Hospital. Learn more about Donna, view her Life Story Film and share in an upbeat celebration of her life Wednesday 1:00 PM at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler & Thompson-Paw Paw, 60900 M-40. Interment of cremated remains will follow at Oak Grove Cemetery, Lawton, followed by a time of food and fellowship back at the funeral home. Donna was preceded in death by her husband James R. Fleming, a sister, Eunice (Prindle) Greenman and a brother, Roger Prindle. Surviving are a son, Scott Bullard of Waxahachie, TX, a daughter, Hilye Bullard of Galesburg, 5 grandchildren; Michelle, Kevin, Ryan, Ruthie, Randy, 2 great-grandchildren, 3 step-children; Stephanie (Bob) Glover of Las Vegas, NV, Kelli (Larry) Johnson and their 2 children of Williamsburg, VA, Michael Fleming and his 2 children of Durham, NC, one brother, Garth Prindle of Lawton, a very beloved sister-in-law, Jo Bullard of Kalamazoo, several nieces and nephews and many loved and cherished friends in Kalamazoo and Sun City, AZ. Please visit Donna's personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a favorite memory, sign the guestbook, or view her Life Story Digital Film. Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer's Association.