Donna Ruth Dove Welch was born on a farm outside Missoula on May 9, 1934 to John and Mary Dove. She was the second of three children, with an older sister Inez and younger brother Jack. Her family was in straitened circumstances—she always said, “We were poor, but happy.” The valley where they lived allowed her to swim in the creek, hike the hills, and enjoy an active childhood. As she grew, she had a special “praying place” on a hill across the road from the farm. Thanks to her parents, her early life was filled with church, Sunday school, and the creation of a firm Christian foundation that she nurtured throughout her life.
She first left home when she attended Rocky Mountain College in the fall of 1952. She had won a scholarship, and her parents and younger brother all worked to help pay the rest of her schooling. She eventually transferred to the University of Montana, majoring in home economics and minoring in PE. Upon graduation, she taught these subjects at Plains High School. During summer teachers’ college, she met her soon-to-be husband, Clyde Welch, who was a math teacher and football coach in Culbertson. They married on February 11, 1961 in White Sulphur Springs, and immediately started a family, having two sons, Dave and Ken, and a daughter, Shyla.
Clyde left teaching to become a federal investigator, and this began a nomadic life with moves to Oregon, Louisiana, Colorado, finally settling in Helena in 1974. During this time, Donna’s focus was on raising her family, but when her children were in high school, she began working as a real estate agent, eventually earning her broker’s license. At 46, she was diagnosed with cancer, and faced it with her usual matter-of-factness and courage. As a result of radiation treatment, she lost the use of her right arm, and half of one lung was burned out. She again faced this matter-of-factly and learned to become left-handed, living life so normally that people had to be told her arm did not work because they had not noticed.
Upon retirement, she and Clyde moved to Billings to be near their sons and their sons’ families. They delighted in their grandchildren, and after losing Clyde in 2013, Donna had the joy of getting to know three great-grandchildren. Her life was filled with church, friends, a number of pinochle groups, word puzzles, and family—family always came first. She leaves behind Dave and his wife Liz, daughter Shyla and her husband Bryce Lefever, son Ken and his wife Chris, four grandchildren (Reid, Jordan, Madison, and Jake), and three great-grandchildren (Alice, Emmett, and Bronwyn).
In August 2020, Donna was diagnosed with sarcoma, and again faced it with courage. She enjoyed the final months of her life surrounded by her family, listening to hymns, and playing pinochle on her iPad. She looked forward to seeing the Lord and reuniting with loved ones who had gone before. She joined them on May 27, 2021.