- About Us
Donna (Blackburn) WarnickMarch 21, 1921 ~ October 10, 2017 (age 96)
Donna (Blackburn) Warnick was born on the spring equinox, March 21st, 1921, in Delta, Utah, the first daughter and second child born to her parents Melva Lucile Turner and Ernest Ephraim Blackburn. Donna died peacefully in her sleep, after nearly 97 years of an active and engaged life, on October 10th, 2017, at her home near Fort Shaw, Montana. Donna lived near or in Delta, Utah until she was ten years old, when the Blackburn family moved to Manchester, Montana in their brand new Model A Ford, with their then 8 children. As the eldest daughter, Donna helped her parents raise her younger siblings and loved them all and felt she had a special relationship with each of them for the rest of their and her lives. She married George Webb Warnick on June 25, 1941 in the Cardston, Alberta, Canada temple. George was born on the fall equinox on September 22, 1915, and he and Donna were that different from each other in temperament and personality, but their marriage flourished and they had 7 children together, all of whom are still living.
Donna and George made their home near Simms, Montana from 1941 until 1960, when they bought a farm on the Ashuelot Bench, a few miles north of Fort Shaw, Montana, and moved their with their 7 children, to the home where Donna lived for the rest of her life. George died in November, 1973. Donna married Ladislas Francuz on May 24, 1976. They divorced in 1986.
Donna was well known for her talent as a horsewoman, from her early childhood into her adulthood as a wife and mother, competing in O-Mok-Sees and races with her beloved mare, Rose O’ Day. Donna and George recruited a group of friends and neighbors to perform square dances on horseback and their drill team performed at many functions around the state of Montana. Donna and George also taught non-horseback ballroom and square dancing for many years and had a very active social life with a close circle of friends with similar interests. Donna also was known for her talent as an artist and with many crafts including designing and sewing clothing for herself and her family, knitting many sweaters and garments for her family, designing and crafting beautiful rugs from wool scraps, making clothing and other apparel from leather, and doing pottery, woodworking, and boatbuilding. She loved to backpack and camp in the wilderness and was very proud of the fact that her fishing and hunting skills helped keep her family supplied with food for many years. Even in her later years when backpacking was no longer possible, she loved to go hiking and enjoyed every opportunity to be in one of her favorite places on Earth, the trail along Gibson Lake, the gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness in the Rocky Mountains west of her home. Her last walk in that area was in October 2016, when she was 95, and she loved every minute of it.
Donna was a talented teacher and, although she never worked professionally as a teacher, she taught many people to hunt, fish, have adventures in the woods, and to dance, swim, sew, knit, do leatherwork, and build boats. In her late 80s, she taught and helped a local troop of Boy Scouts to build a much-prized skin-on-frame kayak. If any of her children, grand-children, or great grand-children ever said they were bored and asked her what there was to do, she would respond “The Spirit of Adventure is Within You!” She was a great problem solver and could almost always come up with a better way to do whatever needed to be done. She was a very determined person and often said, “If I can do it today, then I can do it tomorrow, and, if I do it tomorrow, I'll be able to do it the next day.”
Donna was active in the LDS church, where she taught classes in Sunday School and the Young Women’s Mutual Association. She also designed sets, sewed costumes, and choreographed and taught dancing for many dramatic presentations and road shows, for church and school events. She was a leader in the community and served as president of the Simms Women’s Home Demonstration Club and the local Parent Teacher Association, as well as volunteering her artistic, organizational, and dramatic talents to assist with school productions and events over the years.
Donna was an excellent and hardworking farmer. She was active in farm management and worked with her husband George to improve their herd of registered Holstein cattle and their crops. She was very proud of the fact that with hard work and determination she managed to completely pay off the debt on the family farm, a few years after George's death, so that she owned it free and clear, which gave her a very important sense of security and financial stability. For the last 44 years she farmed in partnership with her son Ron, who continues to manage the family farm.
Donna loved to travel and was able to visit a number of other countries and cultures over the years, including time spent visiting her daughter in Alaska, spending time in France with her second husband Ladis, traveling with her great-nephew, Paul and his wife Mimi to China, in 1986, traveling to Italy and other countries in Europe with her son Russ, and at another time to Europe with her grand-daughter Erin and daughter-in-law Kathy. She loved to tell the story of accidentally getting locked in the ladies room at the Vatican. She eventually was rescued, not by the Pope, but by her son, Russ. She spent time in Australia, traveling with her son, Lorin and his wife Jill, and traveled extensively throughout the United States.
Donna had many good friends during her long lifetime. Several of her dearest friends preceded her in death, including Flora and Glenn Hannah and Rosalie and Carl Kuebler, and her good friend Bob Sauke. In her last years, she remarked frequently that her best friends were all in the ground and that was a very hard thing. She maintained important friendships to the end of her life, however, including with her sisters and brothers, with whom she remained very close, one of the members of her original Cub Scout troop, Bob Gray; the leader of the Boy Scout troop to whom she taught boatbuilding, Johnny Briscoe; and her Relief Society visiting teacher of many years and good friend, Leni Feeler. She also treasured her many friendships with her nieces and nephews by marriage and looked forward to and enjoyed their visits over the years.
Donna loved her children, her grand-children, her great-grandchildren, and her great-great grandchildren. She was proud of their accomplishments and, until recent years, kept track and remembered what they were doing and where they were in life. She cherished the time she spent with them. She is survived by all of her children, Charles (Jan) Warnick, G. Russell Warnick, Ronald (Barbra) Warnick, Kerwin Warnick, Bradley (Kathy) Warnick, Wendy (Andrew Reynolds) Warnick, and Lorin (Jill) Warnick, former daughters-in-law (and mothers of her grandchildren) Nancy Warnick and Loya Warnick, 23 grandchildren (sorry they can’t all be mentioned by name); 42 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great-grandchildren; her brothers, Lynn Blackburn, Duane (Doretha) Blackburn, Loye Blackburn, Merle (Jan) Blackburn; and sister, Kaye Blackburn Stevens, many nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews, and many beloved in-laws; She was preceded in death by her husbands, George Webb Warnick and Ladislas Francuz, and by her parents, Melva and Ernest Blackburn, by her sisters, Betty Rae Jensen and Joyce James, her brothers, Garth, Bryce, Kent, and Gerry Blackburn, her daughter-in-law, Christine Marie Warnick, and grandchildren Deborah Lynn Warnick and J. Douglas Warnick.
Thank you to those who provided constant and tender care for Donna in her last years, and especially her granddaughter Charlene, her son Ron and his wife Barbra, and, in the last months of her life, her caregivers Kaydie Patch, Brittany Feeler, and Hollie Betts.
Donna was known and loved by many for her compassion, competence, and intelligence, and for her enthusiastic sense of adventure and optimism. She will be dearly missed.
Memorial gifts may be made to Cornell University for the George and Donna B. Warnick Scholarship, College of Veterinary Medicine Box 39, Cornell University, Ithaca NY 14853.