Donna Margaret was born on Monday, April 9, 1956, in Chesley to proud parents Donald Arthur and Sarah Margaret “Peggy” (McGillivray) Leifso. She was the youngest of two children, joining older brother Brian (1953). The Leifsos resided west of Elmwood in Malcolm where they operated their family farm. Donna loved spending time with her family and had many fond memories of birthday parties with her cousins. Depending on who you asked, living beside the school had both its pros and cons. More than once she sneaked across the field and followed Brian to school before she was old enough to go, and Peg had to go bring her home. Once Elderslie Central School was built in Chesley the kids headed into town for their education. Donna completed public school before moving on to Chesley District High School. During her youth, Donna was active in the local 4-H club, completing a variety of courses through the years.
After graduating, Donna spent about a year in Kitchener working for Manulife before returning home to be closer to family. She quickly found work at the travel agency in Hanover. She excelled, loving every minute of it! In 1975, Brian invited two of his buddies, Ted Fritsch and Rick Hatten, back to the farm after a round of golf. Following an afternoon of fun, Rick asked Donna if she would go with him to Chickenfest in Walkerton that evening to which she excitedly said, “yes!” A second date followed the very next evening and as they say, the rest is history. The young couple were wed at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Elmwood on Saturday, November 6, 1976 (there wasn’t a deer season that year). The newlyweds settled in the Hallman Apartments in Hanover, before moving to a farmhouse outside of Elmwood and then an apartment above the bank in Elmwood. By this time Donna was working as a teller for Guaranty Trust in Hanover. In 1980, the Hattens experienced another change buying a property in Mooresburg that they would call home for 38 years. The next year their family began to grow with the arrival of Sarah, followed by Crystal in 1984 and Rob in 1987. In addition to caring for her young family, Donna spent these years furthering her education through night courses. This allowed her to become a financial advisor at the bank. Donna loved people and her personality allowed her to succeed in this new role. She formed many close bonds with her clients through the years, even taking night calls when needed. Donna had a very successful 35-year career and retired from the bank in 2011 to pursue her calling as gramma full-time.
Donna enjoyed many creative pastimes over the years which included rug hooking, designing stained glass with Brenda, and even trying her hand at ceramics with Peg. She loved taking in a good sunrise and sunset, as well as the beautiful fall colours — which she did often with Rick. Gardening was another hobby, with Donna spending countless hours tending to her flowerbeds and veggie garden. Although retrieving the fruits of her labour was always rewarding, she wasn’t as keen to head out to deal with the endless weeding. Summers were always full of fun, with lots of road trips, family camping adventures, and who could forget the houseboat tours with friends. Time spent with her children at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, her happy place, was always memorable. When the seasons changed here, Donna looked forward to heading south for a winter reprieve. Sometimes that meant relaxing on a sunny beach with dear friends, and other times it meant cruising adventures with her favourite travelling companion and best friend, her mother Peg. They met so many new people during these adventures with Captain’s Dinners always being a highlight. Donna had a soft spot for jewellery and often brought a souvenir home with her. She loved having her nails done (thanks to Melissa from Bliss) and wearing her beautiful rings from cruises and Rick. Donna was also active in her church, teaching Sunday School for years and also being a regular member of the Church Council. Donna also loved her music with the likes of The Beatles, The Eagles, Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Abba being some of her favourites. She also enjoyed live theatre and even made it to The Sound of Music recently for one final show. As well, she always had a good book or two on the go. Donna had a soft spot for animals, particularly her dogs (at least most of the time) Charlie, Sparky, Buddy, and Miss Heidi. When it came to treating herself, she loved anything with butterscotch or caramel, a nice cold Pepsi and Chinese takeout.
In 2010, Donna’s life forever changed when she became a grandmother. She absolutely treasured spending time with each and every grandchild, celebrating their unique personalities. Gramma treated them to a variety of adventures which included excursions to Storybook Park and day trips to the beach in Port Elgin. The grandkids always looked forward to a week of Vacation Bible School with Gramma and she loved baking, playing games or spending time around the campfire with them. Donna’s side-by-side (a.k.a. Gramma’s Tractor) was another form of entertainment for everyone and will be remembered by her grandchildren for many years to come. Although her time with them was cut short, Donna never missed an opportunity to bond with her grandchildren. She will truly be missed by all of them!
Donna was a loving, generous woman, who was always reliable and selfless. She cared for those around her deeply and put the needs of others before her own. In 2018, Donna and Rick built their dream home and looked forward to many more years together enjoying it with friends and family. Sadly, it was not meant to be as Donna was diagnosed with a rare and advanced form of cancer in April of 2022. With the support of family and friends, Donna began treatments and found comfort in her strong faith. She made the best of each day and was blessed by the devoted and faithful love and care of Rick. In recent weeks Donna’s health declined further and she passed away at home, in the midst of a beautiful sunset, surrounded by the love of her family and friends, on Sunday, December 4, 2022, in her 67th year.
Beloved wife of Rick. Cherished mother of Sarah (Terry) Rogers of Hamilton, Crystal (Brian) Heenan of Kitchener, and Rob (Lynn) Hatten of Chesley. Devoted Gramma of Allie, Hannah, Chloe, Hunter, Blake, and Brielle. Dear sister-in-law of Susanne Leifso, Judy (Larry) Charlton, Cheryl (Scott) Barfoot, and Connie (Doug) Mills. Donna will be sadly missed by her dearest friends who were family, Brenda, Bob, and Julie Krueger. She was predeceased by her brother Brian and her parents Donald and Peggy (McGillivray) Leifso.
Visitation will be held at Rhody Family Funeral Home, Chesley on Thursday from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. A funeral service honouring Donna’s life will be held at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Sullivan Township on Friday, December 9, 2022, at 1 p.m. Inurnment in St. Peter’s Lutheran Cemetery, Sullivan in the spring.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Sullivan, Canadian Wildlife Federation, or the charity of your choice would be appreciated as expressions of sympathy.