Donna Evelyn Torkelson was born on Sept. 10, 1933, to Ted and Nellie Knutson, and raised in the small farming community of Badger in southeastern South Dakota.
After Donna finished high school in 1951, her family moved to Seattle, Washington. There, she worked as a clerk typist at an insurance company for three years, then on to a mortgage company in the Dexter Horton Building for two years. She and a girlfriend dreamed about going to California, and in February 1956, they took a train to Los Angeles. They had jobs at the Alcoa sales office and housing waiting for them, thanks to her friend’s contacts there.
Donna met the love of her life, Dean, at a Lutheran church young men’s and women’s group a couple of months after she arrived. It must have been love at first sight, because they were married six months later. They became parents to Lani the following year. Jeff came along five years later and she remained a dedicated stay-at-home mom and wife.
After Lani married and Jeff went to college, Donna started classes at a community college and received an AA degree in Office Procedures, then continued on to Cal State University Fullerton and received a BA in American Studies, of which she was very proud. A college degree was one of her lifetime goals.
After Dean retired in 1991, they divided their time between California and Washington, eventually making Poulsbo, Washington, their home. Donna loved her charming house and life in this quaint Scandinavian town overlooking Liberty Bay. However, her heart was broken when Dean passed away in 2013, and in 2019 she relocated to La Habra, California, to spend her final years living with Jeff in the home she and Dean built in 1977.
Through the years Donna enjoyed bowling, sewing, tole painting, gardening, exercise classes, Fox News and going to Lutheran Sunday services. She and Dean also enjoyed traveling and were very generous treating their family to wonderful vacations including steamboat cruises down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and tours of Europe, Alaska, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Ireland and Greece, creating many fond memories.
Dancing with Dean was one of Donna’s true joys. They could really cut a rug on the dance floor. Her other true joys were her grandchildren, Ben and Serena, whom she treasured and adored. Another one of Donna’s goals was to reach the age of 90, which she did in September, 2023. The family celebrated together for a week of fun and food in Angel Fire, New Mexico, with a Barbiecore themed birthday party. She loved all of the family wearing pink for the big event.
Donna was a traditional mother. She had a strong work ethic and would always ask if we had a productive day. She was self-sacrificing, ever-generous, loving, caring, sentimental, strong willed, and very loved.
Donna was preceded in death by her loving husband and soul mate Dean Torkelson, parents Ted and Nellie Knutson, sister Marjorie Spaeth (Dennis Spaeth), and brother Rolland Knutson (Wilda Knutson).
She is survived by her daughter Lani Torkelson (Bill Tracey), of Borrego Springs, CA; son Jeff Torkelson, of La Habra, CA; grandson Ben Torkelson, of Medford, OR, and granddaughter Serena Muswieck (John Muswieck), of Medford, OR; and brothers Milford Knutson (Ellen Knutson), of Auburn, WA, and Roger Knutson (Carol Knutson), of Chehalis, WA.
The comfort of her presence will be greatly missed.
Walk with me to the water,
when it comes my time.
What we say will not matter,
just keep your hand in mine.
I’ll cross the water by myself,
I know that’s what I must do.
But the chilling sting won’t be felt,
because I’ve walked with you.