At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Catholic Charities West Michigan, Attn Development
40 Jefferson Ave SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
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Life Story / Obituary
A woman of few words, within her quiet demeanor, Donna Youngblood possessed an unwavering love that enveloped everyone in her world. Donna never missed an opportunity to bestow others with her tremendous generosity; she was forever putting the care of others over her own ambitions. With a fierce determination for living life to the fullest, Donna welcomed each day as a gift and met life’s joys and complications with grace and gratitude. A devoted daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, Donna will be greatly missed and her every memory cherished.
Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, 1931 beheld a power of hope that undulated in the hearts of many. With a natural drive to not just endure but thrive in the face of uncertainty, the nation continued to put one foot in front of the other to build a better future. Nowhere was there a greater sense of hope than in the home of Donald C. and Alma Marie (Hiestand) Underwood as they welcomed their daughter, Donna, into their family on November 24th.
Growing up in the Mattawan area, moving from house to house within the county, Donna’s early years were rooted in resourcefulness, perseverance, and family values. As her father worked on farms and various other jobs, where the family moved, and how long they stayed, depended upon his employment. Many of his jobs required hard physical labor, including plowing fields or tending grapes. Donna often took him a mason jar of cold water to drink on the dusty field, and she often recalled running and hiding in the grapevines to avoid a spanking from her father for “being sassy.” Donna’s mother was a resourceful and creative homemaker. As the family did not have much extra money, most of the food they ate was grown, canned, and cooked at home.
As a child, Donna often suffered from severe stomach aches. Despite the way the stomach aches pained her, she was a very active child. Donna was very close to her siblings; she shared a very special relationship with each one. Her older sister Mary and younger siblings, Norma, Rita, Sharon, and Don became treasured lifelong friends. At age 13, she had emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix. She almost died during that surgery. Her whole class from school sent cards, which she kept all her life safely stored in a cedar chest. Donna was incredibly resourceful and very good at saving money. She even saved enough to buy a bicycle by picking raspberries and strawberries all summer. She loved Christmas and begged her dad for a Christmas tree. One year he brought home a scraggly tree, prickers and all. Undaunted by the challenge, she enthusiastically decorated it with paper chains and homemade ornaments and loved it.
Donna’s teen years were filled with outdoor adventures. She and her sisters and cousins would swim at Eagle Lake or even take the afternoon to drive to South Haven to swim at Lake Michigan. They also took trips to Silver Sands at Silver Beach in St. Joseph. She also enjoyed fishing at Duck Lake with her cousin Margaret. They would ride double on Margaret’s bike, somehow managing to successfully carry their poles and pails while doing so.
As a high school student, Donna was very smart and studious. She also loved basketball and played for her school’s team, scoring 35 points in a single game, which resulted in her being moved up to the varsity team. Donna proudly graduated from Mattawan High School with the class of 1950.
During high school, Donna’s first job was Bemo’s Potato Chips. Once she graduated, she began working as a secretary for the Upjohn Company. To further her nearly 20-year career, she took several classes at Western Michigan University.
While boating on Eagle Lake one day, Donna had the good fortune of meeting her beloved. The brother of her sister’s friend, Peter J. Youngblood, was clearly a hardworking and dedicated man. After taking six months to work up his courage to ask her out, Pete and Donna had their first date. Undeniably smitten with one another, they instantly became a couple and set their eyes on building a future together. On October 26th, 1957, they joyfully exchanged their wedding vows at St. Augustine Cathedral, officially beginning their 62-year adventure together.
They honeymooned to the Upper Peninsula. Having taken the car ferry across the straits on the way up north, they had the great fortune being among some of the first to drive across the newly completed Mackinac Bridge on their way back down to lower Michigan.
Donna and Pete settled in Kalamazoo County, where they designed and built their forever home. For a time, the garage was their living space before building the big house. Together they were blessed to welcome two wonderful children to their family; Michael and Theresa. With hearts that knew no bounds, Donna and Pete also fostered over 100 children in their home. Donna was the heart of the home. Quiet and thoughtful, she created a sense of calm and security that inspired confidence in the many children she loved over the years. Even when disciplining her children she used wisdom and rationale to help guide their futures.
Without a doubt, the Youngblood home was a busy one. Despite the active schedules, Donna found ways to ground the family in structure and tradition. Meals were eaten together and, even in their most simple form, were delicious and beyond compare. Donna was a master in the kitchen, and her family often joked that she taught Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines how to cook. Christmas was a favorite time of year when she and Pete showered her family with affection and gifts. As the family grew, they often held their Christmas celebration in July with Mike and Lin to accommodate everyone’s schedule. Regardless of the month, with Donna at the center, Christmas was Christmas! As grandchildren and great-grandchildren entered her fold, Donna came to love their family gatherings even more. Watching them dance and play was a source of great joy.
Though a hard worker, Donna also understood the value of leisure and play. She and Pete always took time out of their busy schedules to take big summer vacations with all of the kids. Over the years, they traveled to at least 30 states from Boston, to California to see the Redwood trees, always camping along the way. Their grand adventures inspired a lifelong love of travel in their daughter Theresa. When all the kids were young, they would beg her and Pete to join them in the swimming pool. Donna was fond of saying, “I will go in when it gets to 100 degrees.” Well, you can imagine what happened when one summer day, the temperature actually did climb up to 100 degrees! A woman of her word, Donna kept her promise and climbed into the pool with the kids, much to their delight! Donna was even known to join a game of baseball with the kids in the field by the barn. She broke her finger one time, catching a fly ball without a mitt. That finger never did heal properly.
A woman who relished in the wonders around her, Donna had a knack for finding joy in everything. She loved bunny rabbits and her chickens. She walked down to the barn at least twice a day to feed her and gather their wonderful eggs. In the winter, she carried buckets of hot water to the barn so the chickens could survive the cold. Summertime meant tending to the huge vegetable and flower gardens and mowing the large expanse of lawn. Donna mowed the lawns herself and often commented on how much she enjoyed it. She also treasured the fruit trees and bees. She treasured family gatherings and celebrating many graduations, weddings, and births with her extended family. Even drives through the Mattawan area were a treat as she would point out the various places she lived and reminisce about her childhood. When Theresa moved to Oscoda with her husband, Dennis, Donna and Pete made a tradition of traveling “Up North” to visit them and their children. Many soccer games, dance recitals, and visits to interesting places, like the area’s lighthouses, became the center of their adventures. As her mother aged and required more care, Donna visited her at least once a day, bringing hot meals and ensuring her wellbeing.
Clearly, Donna’s wisdom, love, quiet calm, and devotion proved a safe harbor in life’s storms for all who were blessed to know her. She and Pete always found a way to make sure their loved ones had what they needed and knew without a doubt that they were loved and valued. Donna naturally inspired a sense of calm certainty, and her wisdom proved priceless. A role model in so many ways Donna taught us how to live a wholehearted life. And, while we will miss her tremendously, we will proudly carry her legacy of love and generosity forward.
Donna Jean Youngblood of Kalamazoo, age 88, died on April 24th, 2020. Donna was preceded in death by her husband, Peter J. Surviving are her children: Michael (Lin) Youngblood and Theresa (Dennis) Corwin; 4 grandchildren: Erin, Lissa, Jordan, and Jenna; 2 great-grandchildren: Dustin and Pearl; siblings: Mary (Marion) Branch, Norma (William) Otten, Rita Clark, Sharon Barney, and Donald (Carolyn) Underwood; and many nieces and nephews. Private services will take place with burial at Maple Grove Cemetery. Visit Donna’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you may read her Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign her online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to the organization of your choice or Catholic Charities West Michigan Attn: Development, 40 Jefferson Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.