Donna Hardenberg ’58

Donna Mae Hardenberg departed on her next adventure on May 12, 2023. The oldest of three children, she was born to James and Ruth Hardenberg on February 27, 1936 in Zeeland, Michigan. Donna, an alumnus of Hope College, taught for 30 years, befriending countless students while introducing them to the writers, poets, playwrights, and musicians she loved. In the Byron school system, she served as English teacher, coach, librarian, play director, faculty leader – she did it all. After Donna retired, she divided her time between her beloved Beaver Island and Gulfport, Florida.

Donna was something of a Renaissance woman with many talents and interests. A good athlete, Donna played softball and tennis, fished, and golfed. She loved animals, especially cats and buffalos, and was an avid birder with a long life list. She was always up for a birding or camping adventure, and enjoyed sharing stories about her escapades. Every December Donna joined thousands of volunteers nationwide to complete a bird census in the Northern Hemisphere. She especially liked calling owls to count them in the snowy night.

Donna was a lover of classical music and books. She was a stained glass artisan and to this day, her stained glass windows can be found in the Beaver Island Christian Church. Donna was handy with a hammer and other tools, and after retiring from teaching, she kept busy doing home improvements for friends and neighbors. She was a gifted story teller, loved a good joke, enjoyed playing cards, and was famous for her homemade pies.

Donna was a tender-hearted soul. She could talk to anyone about anything, and people were drawn to her, especially children with whom she seemed to have a special rapport. Everywhere she ventured, Donna made friends. With her friends on Beaver Island, she mapped birding trails, improved the beachfront and hiking paths, played plenty of pinochle, and watched splendid sunrises from the home she loved best, looking out toward Garden Island. During the other half of the year, Donna had a wide circle of friends and neighbors in Gulfport (the “Gaming Gamins”) who enjoyed regular game nights, trivia parties, bocce ball, and dinners together.

Donna was pre-deceased by her parents, a brother in childhood, and her life partner of 27 years, JoAnn Westrick. She is survived by her brother Bruce and his wife Barbara of Punta Gorda, Florida, her niece Suzanne of Charleston, South Carolina, her nephew David of Chicago, JoAnn Westrick’s son Chris and his family of Ohio, and a large circle of friends from Beaver Island, Lansing, Michigan, and Gulfport, Florida.

Donna dedicated her body to the medical schools of Florida for use in medical research and education.

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