52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Donna Brown nee Willis

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My mother and I accepted the 52 Ancestor challenge for 2014 to have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor.  We were striving to complete 104 between the two of us this year but we will not reach that number together because my mother unexpectedly died on November 25.  Together we did complete 91 posts for that challenge.

Right now it is difficult for me to concentrate on our shared project and I am undecided on whether I will continue with it.  This morning I posted my mom’s unfinished 44th post to her blog.  My mom’s love, faith, desire to learn and share are alive within me. I love her.

This is my 47th submission taken from the obituary I wrote about my mom.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADonna Marie (Willis) Brown, 74, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, died Tuesday, November 25, 2014. She was born on Saturday, June 22, 1940, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to James Thomas Willis and Virginia Amy (Lineberry). Her family moved often but she considered herself as being from Oklahoma City. She graduated in 1958 from Capitol Hill High School and in 1987 earned her Bachelor of Musical Arts in Music and Psychology from the University of Oklahoma.

She married her best friend on June 26, 1959 in Oklahoma City and they had two children. During their marriage they lived in Oklahoma, Texas, California, Ohio and North Carolina. They divorced in 1984.

Donna’s passions centered around faith, family, reading and music all of which were interdependent. Her faith in God was one of the more important aspects of who she was and was completely interwoven into her passions.

For as long as Donna could remember she loved words – she read them, sang them, wrote them, typed them, transcribed them, studied them, evaluated them, rearranged them and changed her life by understanding them. She was extraordinarily gifted with reading, typing, writing and proof-reading. She stayed proficient with the newest technologies to read, write, hear and process words and loved helping others with words. For her, reading (words) wasn’t just about the entertainment value in a book, but it was about the development of the mind, the cultivation of ideas and refining the way you interact with others and the world we live in. She said to us ‘Go forth and read – widely. And learn and grow because of it.’

As a child Donna loved hearing her mother sing along with the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts and dreamed of being an opera singer herself. To fulfill this dream she was active in church and community choirs and studied vocal music formally and informally her entire life. Her first performances consisted of a duet in junior high school then two solos in high school. In 1971, while living in Durham, North Carolina, she auditioned before conductor John Peterson and composer Don Wyrtzen and was the selected soloist for the well attended “1,000 Voices Singing for Christ” that filled the Duke University Stadium. Upon returning to Oklahoma in 1981 she performed as a leading soprano in the Cimarron Circuit Opera Company for 20 years. With that company she interpreted many of the great Verdi soprano roles as well as roles in hundreds of performances in the Broadway show tune repertoire of the company.

Writing was a process Donna first recognized she enjoyed when she wrote the article “I’m not the Grandmother” of her experience during and after her pregnancy with her son. Through Toastmasters she refined her skill in writing and giving speeches. For the past several years Donna’s interest in genealogy intensified and her research skills soared giving her another avenue to pursue her passions.

In one of Donna’s speeches and in a letter for her grandchildren on their 18th birthday she said “In this river of life, your mission is to uncover your song (not just discover it, because it’s been there all along) and once you uncover it, sing it for all you’re worth. When the river of life joins with the sea of eternity – the sea will not be complete without my melody and yours.” She hunted, collected, assimilated and wrote words to uncover and share her melody and it remains alive.

Memorial services will be held 10:00 AM, Friday, December 5, 2014 at Southern Hills Baptist Church, 8901 S. Penn, Oklahoma City, OK. Services are under the direction of John M. Ireland Funeral Home and Chapel, Moore, OK. Should friends desire, memorial contributions may be sent to The Library Endowment Trust, 300 Park Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73102

Donna’s blogs:

No Story Too Small offered a challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Each of my posts for this challenge will include in the title “52 Ancestors Challenge” and will have the tag of 52Ancestors.
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