Donna's Story

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Donna Jeanne Helble, of Winona, Minnesota, formerly of DeWitt, Iowa, died following a short illness Monday, March 13, 2017, at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
Donna, the adored only child of Donald and Helen (Krause) Helble, was born December 17, 1948, in Davenport, Iowa. She spent her childhood in DeWitt which always held a special place in her heart. Donna graduated from Simpson College with a B.A. in Elementary Education and French, received a M.S. in Remedial Reading from Winona State University and an Ed. D. in Language Arts Education from the University of Northern Colorado.
Donna was professor emerita of Winona State University. Education and children's literature were her passions. Following in her mother's footsteps, she began her teaching career at Minnesota City Elementary School as a second grade teacher. In 1973, she moved to Goodview Elementary School, where she taught grades one through four in the Program for Learning in Accordance with Needs.
In 1988, Donna began her career at Winona State University as a professor of education. She served as adjunct professor at St. Mary's University of Minnesota, and the University of Northern Colorado. She also served as Teacher Intern for the Hon. Tim Penny, First District Minnesota U.S. Congress.
While at W.S.U., Donna chaired the popular community-wide "Reading on the Mall" event for 25 years. Through activities designed by her W.S.U. Children's Literature classes, the event promoted children's literacy in Winona and the surrounding communities. A booklet of activities was published for parents, teachers, and day care providers. The day-long February event attracted over 2,000 people annually, and each child who attended received a new book to take home.
As a proud and dedicated member of the Rotary Club, for 26 years Donna was chairperson of the Rotary Readers program, which sent Rotarians into elementary classrooms monthly to read to the children. Three books were donated to the classrooms each month, and once a year, Rotary gave a book to each student. Donna also worked with Books for Babies, another Rotary Club project, to donate board books that community health nurses could take to visits with new parents to encourage them to begin reading orally to their children. Over 5,000 books were donated through the program.
Through Rotary Club, Donna chaired the Shadow Program for over 28 years, matching high school students with Rotarians or community members in a profession in which they were interested. She was also a multiple Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary Club.
Donna designed the model for the "Maxwell Math Club," an after-school enrichment program for elementary students held on the W.S.U. campus. She was co-founder and co-advisor for the Student International Reading Association on the W.S.U. campus, and Kappa Delta Pi, an education honorary at W.S.U.
In the wider community, Donna served as president and board member of the following: Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Winona, Winona Rotary Club, United Way of the Greater Winona Area, the Winona County Unit of the American Red Cross, the Winona County Cancer Society, the Winona Friends of the Library, the Winona Community Foundation, and the Winona branch of the American Association of University Women. She also served on the boards of the Winona State University Foundation, where she was heavily involved in planning for the Education Village, and the Winona Area Public Schools Foundation. Donna was a member and held offices in the following: the Southeastern Minnesota Reading Council, Phi Delta Kappa Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma, Chapter CS of the PEO Sisterhood, the D.A.R., Sequoia Club, and the Ruskin Study Club. She attended the Blandin Community Leadership Program, as well. It must be mentioned that Donna was an avid bridge player.
For these and other professional and community contributions, Donna was the recipient of many awards, including: Winona Teacher of the Year, inclusion in Who's Who Among American Teachers, the Thomas Stark Award from the United Way, the Celebrate Literacy Award from the International Reading Association, the Athena Award for women in leadership from the Winona Chamber of Commerce, the Ben and Adith Miller Tribute from Winona Health, Rotary International Distinguished Club President (awarded in Barcelona, Spain), a Certificate of Appreciation from the city of Winona for increasing literacy among community youth, and a certificate from the Minnesota Senate for promoting literacy. Her name was also included in Who's Who of American Women, the international Who's Who of Professional Business Women, and Outstanding Young Women of America.
Beyond her professional and civic contributions, Donna will be remembered as an energetic, witty, loving and giving friend to many people locally and around the world. She never stopped learning through her many activities, friendships, and her extensive travel to Europe, India, Australia, and all over the world and United States. Donna's willingness to host myriad public and private events, her generosity of spirit as well as treasure, love of educating children (even teaching them to swim), her ready laugh, her appreciation of beauty and humanity will all be missed by a community that has benefitted from her full and benevolent life. As Donna's mother would say, we will miss Donna's "personality plus!"
Donna's survivors include her cousins, Steve Duffy, and Lynn Enlow , special friend Brian Williamson of Australia, and many, many other friends.
A funeral service for Donna Jeanne Helble will be held Saturday, March 18, 2017, at 11:00 a.m. with visitation starting at 9:30 a.m. at her church, Wesley United Methodist, in Winona. Visitation will be held Friday, March 17, 2017, from 4:00 until 8:00 p.m. at Fawcett Junker Funeral Home. Visitation will continue at the United Methodist Church, 222 12th Street, DeWitt from 10:00 until a service at 11:00 a.m. Monday, March 20, 2017. Burial will follow at Elmwood Cemetery, DeWitt.
Condolences may be expressed and a photo tribute viewed at www.schultzfuneralhomes.com.
Arrangements are in the care of Schultz Funeral Home, DeWitt.
Published on March 16, 2017
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