3/16/1929 – 3/10/2016
“A Country Girl”
Donna Rebecca Willis Hirsch, 86, of Elizabethtown, Illinois went to be with the Lord on Thursday, March 10, 2016, 2:08 p.m. at the Reflections Care Center in Carterville. She was the wife of the late Leonard C. Hirsch. Donna was born on March 16, 1929, the daughter of Charles W. Willis and Lily Mae Eddings of Gallatin County, IL.
She was preceded in death by six siblings, William Willis, Wilma Johnson, Melvin Willis, Betty Seaman, Geneva Mathis and Norma Rich.
Donna is survived by four sons: Thomas L. Hirsch, born 1956, (wife Brenda, daughter Caitlin); Timothy C. Hirsch, born 1959, (daughter Hallie, son Tyler); Joseph “Ted” Hirsch, born 1963, (wife Sue, daughter Alex, son Sam); Michael “Troy” Hirsch, (daughter Madison); one great-grandchild, Liam Hirsch; and one God-child, Becca Harper Mathis. She also had numerous cousins, nieces and nephews who will miss her.
Youngest of her family, Donna was raised on the family farm south of New Shawneetown in Gallatin County, IL. William Arch Willis, ca. 1837-1916, built the family home from timber cut on the farm. Stones for the chimney and foundation were shaped from stones from this land. One of Donna’s ancestors went to California during the “49″ Gold Rush. When he returned home he built the Ringgold Church on family property south of Shawneetown. He was deacon of this church for many years. This is the church Donna attended as a child. Her father was a deacon and a choir leader at this church.
Donna graduated from Shawneetown High School in 1947 and later attended Lockyear Business College in Evansville, Indiana. Graduating with honors she found employment with Boietker & Kellogg (Hardware Store) and with Nugent Sand and Gravel Company of Evansville, as a secretary. It was during her employment there that she met the love of her life and soul mate, Leonard Hirsch. They were married in October 15, 1955.
In 1959 Leonard and Donna with three year old son Tom in tow, purchased a dairy farm in the northeastern part of Hardin County, IL and moved in. Determined to be a success Leonard and Donna were the first in the area to use artificial insemination from proven Holstein bulls to improve the herd. As the herd developed they started naming the calves they kept after Leonard’s sisters, then after their female relatives and friends.
No stranger to hard work, Donna was first a homemaker, but preferred to be outside. She would help with the milking of the dairy cows. She could run farm machinery, fix fences, help take care of the garden, can the produce, and make her own clothes. She loved to raise baby chickens in the spring.
Donna was employed as a teacher’s aide, secretary for the U.S. Forest Service, and she worked 16 years as a warehouse clerk for the Peabody Coal Company where she managed accounts totaling several million dollars. After retiring form Peabody Donna decided she needed something to do. She found employment at San Damiano Catholic Shrine where she registered guests and worked in the gift shop. She worked at Jacqueline’s Gift Shop in Elizabethtown for awhile. Later in life she also worked at the Rose Hotel at Elizabethtown in the same capacity as San Damiano.
Donna was involved in Vacation Bible School, P.T.A., 4-H, C.Y.O., the St. Ann’s Altar Society, and was a long time member of St. Joseph Catholic Church and the church choir. Having four sons, no telling how many ham and bean dinners, chili suppers, bake sales, and rummage sale fundraisers she attended. She was always available to help her sons on school projects, Halloween costumes, etc.
Donna was an excellent cook. She received great admiration for her homemade bread. Family members recall her homemade ice cream made from fresh eggs and milk from the farm. Her sons’ favorite Sunday meal was homemade bread, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, green beans with bacon and onion, a big glass of sweet tea and last but not least a big slice of strawberry pie. It definitely was a slice of heaven!
An avid reader, Donna was interested in genealogy, gardening, horsemanship, raising livestock, Collie dogs, bird watching and flower gardens. Donna felt that winters lasted way too long. She would absolutely devour the spring garden catalogs that arrived in the mail. She also enjoyed taking pictures of landscapes and/or anything pretty or unusual that caught her eye.
Donna also liked to travel, having been out west to see the Grand Canyon and the giant redwood trees. She has been to Texas at the Alamo, Niagara Falls, Nova Scotia, and Florida several times with family and friends. Once she and Leonard were lucky enough to visit Rome, Italy and Egypt.
Donna greatly enjoyed visiting. She always asked you first about your family and what was going on in your life. Even if you were there to work, she insisted that you visit for a while first. Donna loved her home and was concerned about its upkeep. She routinely bought new flowers and plants to beautify the property.
Her pride and joy were her four sons, their spouses, her grandchildren, and her great- grandchild. She always encouraged them to be the best people they could be and to always do their best. She was always there to give you a hand, and not put you down or belittle you.
Donna was so well liked by Leonard’s family that after all her siblings had passed away, they made her an honorary sister in their family so she wouldn’t be lonely.
Donna was a gentle soul with a quick wit and a big heart. During her life she was a daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, mother-in-law, co-worker and more importantly she was your friend.
She will be missed by those who loved and knew her!
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in memory of Donna to: Golden Circle Senior Nutrition, Hospice of Southern Illinois, St. Joseph Catholic Church, or the Make A Wish Foundation.
Visitation for Donna was held on Saturday, March 12, 2016 from 2 p.m. until memorial service time of 5 p.m. at the Vickery Funeral Chapel in Shawneetown. Memorial services were conducted by her nephews, Rev. Ron Johnson and John Johnson. Visitation continued on Monday, March 14, 2016 from 10 a.m. until Mass time of 11 a.m. at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Elizabethtown with Father Abraham Adejoh officiating. Burial followed at the St. Joseph Cemetery.
Internet condolences may be made at the website, http://www.vickeryfuneralchapel.com.