Donna Mae Antonson

May 2, 1934 - December 10, 2021

Donna Mae Antonson passed away Friday, December 10, 2021 in Fort Myers, FL.  She resided in North Fort Myers, FL since 2007, but lived in St. Paul, Minnesota most of her life.  She was born May 2, 1934 in St. Paul, MN to William H. and Minnie Ella Bertha (Thune) Reichow, now deceased.

Donna’s passion for music began early in her life.   At age 11, she took piano lessons at Sacred Heart Church.  Later, she learned to play the accordion with a rented instrument, using up the 9 of 10 lessons that her sister Penny hadn’t used.  A couple years later, her sister Penny, along with Shirley Hooper, played the guitar with her on the accordion, entertaining at the Veterans Hospital, talent contests at local theaters and dances.  In senior high, she sang in the Messiah Choir at Our Savior’s Church, performing every Easter for 4 years.

In 1948, Donna met her future husband and “the love of her life” in the Walther League at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church on East Minnehaha and Earl St. in St. Paul.  Donna was 14 and David was 16.

One year later, in 1949, Donna became the 1st Jr. Royalty queen in St. Paul Winter Carnival. She was crowned Miss Dayton’s Bluff Playground Queen.

Donna attended Harding Senior High School on Earl and 3rd St., graduating in 1951.  After some business schooling, she became the church secretary at Our Savior’s Church in 1954.  Later, she became secretary to the president of the Miller and Holmes Gasoline Co.

Donna and David were married on a snowy day at Our Savior’s Church in St. Paul, MN just after Thanksgiving on November 27, 1954.   A year later, their first son Doug was born.  Arrangements were made to purchase the duplex at 226 Bates in 1957.  Dave and Donna rented out the upstairs unit and they lived on the main floor in a one bedroom unit.  Along comes their #2 son Dale in 1958 and it’s time for a bigger place to live.  They purchased a newly constructed home in a new subdivision in Woodbury in 1959.  Donna could enlist her interior decorating skills in their new home, while creating new flower and vegetable gardens around the new property.   This was also the year that she began her career working in downtown St. Paul as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway.  In 1961, Devin was born and the family was complete. 

Woodbury was an idyllic place to raise a young family of boys but there was always an incredible amount of work to be done.  This was a perfect launching point for her many amazing talents to begin to shine.  Simultaneously, as she was starting out in a new career with a railroad, Dave began attending night school at the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in engineering, while he worked days at 3M.   Donna employed her sewing skills to mend clothes and create matching shirts for her 3 sons.  She used her accordion playing talents in the Great Northern Clown Band performing at the Children’s Hospital, nearby nursing homes and railroad events. 

She began to learn and hone her skills at Duplicate Bridge.  She eventually became a Life Master in this competitive pursuit.  She was really good at card games of all kinds.

Over the next 3 decades, she worked for the Burlington Northern and the Burlington Northern- Sante Fe Railway.  If you needed to find something in a boxcar or to find out where it was supposed to go: Just ask Donna.   She retired from this career in Sept. 1996, but never stood still for too long.

She was famous for her garage sale/picker skills, craft fairs and any nearby retail sale.  She was a crafter, creating shirts and jackets with appliques that she sold to friends and at craft fairs.  She knitted and gave away countless hats to local charities.  She always enjoyed a good round of golf.  As if there was plenty of time, she volunteered for 15 years after she retired from the RR, helping out at the Children’s Hospital Gift shop.

Donna enjoyed spending time with Dave at their winter residence in Florida. At first, they had a place near Dave’s brother Don in West Palm Beach.  Ten years ago they moved across the state to settle in Ft. Myers, FL.  Donna was active in the Bridge Club in Ft. Myers and the Moody River Mermaids, a community water exercise group.

Of all Donna’s accomplishments, she treasured the  64 years of marriage to her beloved husband, David.  His limitless love and devotion remained a comfort to her after his passing in 2018.  Donna is survived by her beloved siblings, brother Arnie Reichow of MN and sister Juanita (Penny) Reichow Swanson of MN.  Her two loving sons are Dale Antonson (Lyndra) of MN, and Devin Antonson of GA.  Donna was truly blessed with her grandchildren Justin (Heather) Antonson, Jason (Shannon) Antonson, Eric (Desiree) Antonson, Nic (Michelle) Antonson, M. Doucet, Sara Antonson, Dan (Jamie) Antonson, and Phil Antonson.  She will also be remembered by her great grandchildren:  Alexandria Antonson, Erin Antonson, Arianna Antonson, Brenna Antonson, Kye Antonson, Katarina Antonson, Keinwen Antonson, Jessie Antonson, Carson Antonson and Kelsey Antonson, as well as many nieces, nephews and friends.

Donna was preceded in death by her son Douglas Antonson in 2018 and husband David Antonson in 2019.

A service to celebrate Donna’s life will be held on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 2410 Stillwater Rd E, St Paul, Minnesota. Donna and her family began attending Gethsemane while her sons were young; she has always considered it her home church. A social hour begins at 1 p.m. followed by the service at 2 p.m. For those who’d like to remain, a dessert gathering will follow the service at 3 p.m.

Memorial contributions in memory of Donna Mae Antonson are suggested to Public Television.

Friends are invited to send condolences via the on-line guest book which can be found at You’re encouraged to please share this link with others.

Mullins Memorial Funeral Home & Cremation Service, Cape Coral, is entrusted with final care.


  1. Terri O'Grady Dec 20, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    Donna had such a beautiful beaming smile. I’m not surprised she was a beauty queen! Anytime I saw her, she was always so sweet and welcoming. She clearly loved her children. I enjoyed reading her obituary and hearing of all her pursuits and accomplishments. Clearly Dale is a chip ‘off the old block’ as they say. I trust that your memories will keep your hearts full of gratitude for the time you were able to share with her. She will be missed.

  2. Verena and Bruno Flueck Dec 21, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    Dearest Dale,
    We have just read the interesting biography of your beloved mother and are impressed by her active and rich life. She was obviously a great soul and we regret not having known her.
    The loss will therefore be especially great for you. We can sympathize with your grief because we too have lost our mothers. But in our hearts we are always connected.

  3. Susan Mclevish Kleven Dec 23, 2021 at 7:57 am

    Donna was my second mother.
    Dave and Donna were good friends with my parents, and my mother passed in January of 2018 and Dave passed 3 weeks later, therefore, Donna and my dad became inseparable good friends. She was the most amazing, wonderful, kind, and FUN person to have had in my life. We spent lots of time together in Minnesota in the summertime, and time together in Florida as well. She is sorely missed by many many people. My heart goes out to her family who she adored, especially those grandchildren that she thoroughly enjoyed spending time with. Love and miss you my friend Donna!! 😢

  4. Florence L. Bye Dec 24, 2021 at 12:31 am

    Donna and Dave easily made new friends. Bud and I met them on an Elderhostel on the Inside Passage and we all attended three more after that. It was always fun and laughter together. Her piano playing always lifted everyones’ spirit at a gathering. Our last trip with Dave and Donna was in 2017 through the Canadian Rockies. I was with my Granddaughter. We four enjoyed being together.

  5. Maureen Hise Dec 24, 2021 at 6:57 am

    Donna was a force of nature. She exuded so much energy. I will always remember her remarkable smile.

  6. Lynn Shivers Dec 25, 2021 at 11:43 am

    Donna was always a lovely addition to our Mermaids. She was warm and sweet, and will be missed.

  7. Dale D Antonson Dec 25, 2021 at 12:05 pm

    “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard….” A.A.Milne

  8. Mikki Mascotti Dec 27, 2021 at 4:20 pm

    I worked with Donna at BNSF. Spent many hours at their home from getting peppers from her garden, painting the outside of their house and my fondest were of the Christmas parties she had. She was a funny, lovely and wonderful woman. I am blessed having known her.

  9. Judy Jackson Dec 27, 2021 at 8:52 pm

    I met Donna while working at BNSF RR. Shebgot me involved playing golf. Remember many times at her house practicing in front yard. Great memories with a Great friend. God has a new Angel helping him.
    R.I.P. Donna

  10. Kathy Igo Dec 28, 2021 at 1:53 pm

    Donna was a wonderful neighbor here at Eagle Ridge. She was one of the first to greet us with her beautiful smile and welcoming personality. She was a genuine ‘people’ person, always smiling! I enjoyed tending to her many plants when she was in Florida! She gifted me a garden 🧚‍♀️ fairy when she returned with that wonderful smile ! We will miss her
    Warm kind sweet personality☺️. Rest in the peace of Our Lord, Donna. You are in good hands !
    Kathy & Mike Igo

  11. Sara Antonson Dec 29, 2021 at 12:12 pm

    As the only granddaughter to Donna, I was in a very lucky position to learn from her. She had a duality to her one couldn’t help but notice. She indulged in feminine, frilly things such as collecting dolls, crafting, thrift shopping, matching accessories, and bedazzling anything! When I was young, she made me dresses that matched my American Girl Doll’s dress. And yet, she had this resolute toughness, a take-no-shit attitude. She enjoyed a lifelong marriage and traditional celebrations, which is why it meant so much to me that she praised me for never lowering my standards in a partner, and encouraged me to wait for someone who would truly appreciate me. Donna Mae was before her time, in many ways. She was a strong, independent woman before being a strong, independent woman was a thing.

    My grandma taught me to never settle, to work hard at what I do, and to save my money to spend on adventures. We had $2 Chuck over Barron’s magazine and meanderings about the stock market. We used a coupon to get a bargain of a meal for our last dinner together. I beat her twice at Rummikub that night and she didn’t lie when I asked if she wanted me to let her win next time (she did). When I asked what her favorite trait was in a person, she told me intelligence. One of my favorite things about her was that she’d randomly break into song, singing words or phrases as either part of the conversation or parroting something just said.

    I felt called to visit her bi weekly before she left for Florida this year. I asked that she make me something with her hands for me to keep and she made me a prayer shawl I’ll use in my job as a psychotherapist. I gave her a biggg hug goodbye. But I still didn’t expect to lose her so suddenly. She was so vibrant and kicking ass at Bridge every week. I’m so grateful have had an influence like her in my life. I love you, grandma!

  12. Brenda Reichow Dec 30, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    My beloved Aunt Donna and I became even closer after the passing of my mother in 2007. She was my second mother. We had so much in common and enjoyed attending so many different activities and events together. She made me feel apart of her immediately family. I enjoyed visiting her and my late Uncle Dave in Ft. Myers and also at their condo in Mendota Heights. My Aunt Donna enjoyed playing the organ and she was always up for playing a card game of Five Crowns and other card/board games. She would even let me win at times.
    I admired her knitting and crocheting skills. She was always knitting or crocheting something for someone. She truly had many talents. I will always miss her smile. I love you Aunt Donna and I miss you tremendously! 😪

  13. Dale Antonson Jan 1, 2022 at 12:09 pm

    This photo was taken in 1955 at Doug’s Baptism. He’s being held by Shirley Reichow, my Mom’s Sister-in-law. Shirley was one of Doug’s sponsors. The proud gaze captured here between a young mother and her first-born child is magical!

  14. Dale Antonson Jan 3, 2022 at 10:41 am

    Ready to play you a song!
    From left to right: This is Donna, Arnie, Minnie (their Mom) and Junita Reichow in 1949.

  15. Dale Antonson Jan 4, 2022 at 9:03 am

    Donna and Dave Antonson’s Wedding Day! November 27, 1954

  16. Dale Antonson Jan 4, 2022 at 9:52 am

    High, wide and handsome. Donna ponders this sign as she and Dave enter into Wyoming on a car trip in 1950

  17. Dale Antonson Jan 5, 2022 at 12:18 pm

    The Great Northern Clown Band’s finest accordion player of 1964

  18. Shelly Heller Jan 15, 2022 at 7:53 am

    Donna was a wonderful neighbor and a special friend. Donna and Dave were always welcoming and had so many stories to tell and history to share. I enjoyed Donnas energy, wit and how she was always truthful and told you exactly how she felt! If I needed someone to talk to or an answer she would be there.

    We enjoyed having them over for visits and stopping at their Eagan home where I brought chocolate donut holes from the Maplewood Bakery.
    We did not get to visit this year but Donna wrote me on Dec 4 shortly before she passed she was looking forward to a bingo game at her place and there was a $250 ticket!

    The photo was around 2014 with the Stillwater neighbors at the 5-8.

    Donna you meant the world to so many family and friends, and to me, and you will never be forgotten. Heaven has an incredible angel to watch over us all now.

    Love Shelly Heller

  19. Marlys and John Rooney Jan 15, 2022 at 10:23 am

    DONNA and I have known each other for many years. WE were just kids when her Mother and my parents were on a parents’ committee for the Bluff Playground (which was demolished when Hwy 94 was added). In addition, our mothers had a club to play 500 – and we were called on different times to fill in.

    Later as an adult, Donna became quite the “noted” local musician. She was very generous in devoting her time to entertain others. Much later when our two daughters were in grade school, Donna organized a little “band” where one daughter played piano and violin, another played clarinet and Donna played accordian and sang. She was quite the organizer.

    It was on a cold and snowy night that she had committed to entertain at the Ramsey County Home for the elderly. I thought she’d cancel because of the weather, but she said the Ramsey County Home was looking forward to it and we should go – so they went and everyone seemed to enjoy the show. However, when we went out after the performance, the snow was “really bad”. We made it home but she apparently landed in a ditch, I’m not sure what she did to get out or obtain a ride home, but she never even called us. That just shows her self sufficiency and dedication to others.

    Most recently, after Dave was gone, we tried to get together to play bridge on the weekends when she was less busy. When Colleen (my daughter) started working as a nurse, we went back and forth according to Colleen’s weekends off and also what else was on. The last time we played the middle of Sept, at our house we had a great time and SHE WAS GOOD, but then we just never got together again before she left for FL – but we were already talking via e-mails about playing again when she came home – so really a horrible shock when we heard ofher death.


  20. Dale Antonson Feb 28, 2022 at 4:56 pm

    I have been truly Blessed to grow up with these two amazing people. I know more about my Mom and Dad now, than I ever did before. We don’t know what we’ve really lost till it’s gone. Thank you all for reading this and being a part of this journey. May the Blessings Be.

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