The loss of the head of our family.

Jun 24, 2020

This post is written by my amazing Mom, Lynn Fortun. She read this at my Grandma Donna Fortun’s Service. This is really only 2% of the amazing life my Grandma lived. But it sure shows a bit of how such a loving and caring person lived her life!

Donna Mae (Ottum) Fortun passed away peacefully on Sunday, June 7, 2020 at Norseland Nursing Home at the age of 82. Donna was born February 27, 1938 to Tilman and Mabel (Peterson) Ottum. More than just a date of birth date and date of death, Donna was a daughter, sister, wife, mother, foster mother, mother-in-law, grandma, great-grandma and friend. She had a big heart and never turned down anyone in need.

Donna lived a diverse and fascinating life. As a young child, Donna lost all three of her brothers. Fredrick died in infancy in 1941 of spinal meningitis, David died in infancy in 1942 of pneumonia with complications and Marvin died at the age of 7 in 1943 from a brain tumor. Donna has some wonderful memories of her brother Marvin (Monnie as she called him), their dog Skippy, their pony and ducks. As you can well imagine, after losing 3 brothers, Donna was very close with her Mom and Dad. She fondly recalls their trips to Chicago to watch the Chicago Cubs play, their fishing trips to the river and the Saturday night movies in Westby. She also adored sleep-overs with Grandma Peterson. Donna oftentimes woke up to strangers at their breakfast table as her Mom and Dad opened their hearts and homes to the many strangers that passed by and needed a place to stay.

Grandma & Her Brother Marvin
Grandma, Her Mom & Brother Marvin

Donna attended school (grades 1 – 8) at Unseth School, not far from her home. She attended Westby High School where she graduated in 1956. When graduated from High school, Donna worked at a root beer stand where this “cheap” (Donna’s words) young guy ordered his food and left her a $ .01 tip. This young man was also known to have “stalked” her at Bible Camp a few years earlier, and who showed up now and again to visit with her at the farm. Of course, this young man was Maynard and they later married on February 14, 1959.

Grandma & Grandpa at Bible Camp

Once Donna and Maynard married and returned to and purchased the home (Ottum) farm, Donna worked hard as a farm wife and mother. Their start into farming was rocky at best, as they lost the barn and most of the out-buildings to a fire in 1962. Then when they were rebuilding the barn, a storm tore through the new structure and they had to start over yet again.

Wedding Day

In the midst of them starting their new lives, Donna and Maynard began taking in foster girls. They sheltered and loved 10 foster daughters through the foster program (Jo Ellen, Ina, Paulette, Alice, Liz, Evelyn, Nancy, Susan, Marilyn and Sandy). Each of these young women were confirmed and went on to graduate from Westby High School (from 1965 – 1971) while under their care, and many remain in contact with Donna and Maynard yet today. Donna’s home was also a shelter to those whose car broke down on the road or anyone needing a place to stay. One particular such “orphan” was Sandy, who stayed with them for a whole summer while working in the Westby area and who was quickly adopted into the family. Sandy and Donna have stayed in contact for the past 30+ years.

Donna has a vast work history that started while she was in High School where she worked at a local root beer stand, worked for two summers as a nanny for a La Crosse attorney and his family and as a Certified Nursing Assistant at St. Anne’s. She then went to airline school in Minneapolis and took her first full-time job in Chicago at Eastern Airlines. Once she married and returned to the home farm, in addition to being a mother, foster mother and working the farm, she worked at Nelson Agri Center in Viroqua, Westby Schools as a cook, Sime Furniture, Do-It Center, Villa St. Joseph, Norseland Nursing Home and finally at Wal Mart where she stayed until she retired. During all of her work experiences she collected many friends and acquaintances and left her mark on them!

Donna is a natural-born story teller, which has led to many great stories of her growing up, meeting and marrying the love of her life, husband (Maynard) on February 14, 1959 and raising her 5 children; Chris (Lynn), Carolyn (Tom) Moran, Carleton (Tracy), Corey (Peggy) and Craig (Kristi) all of Westby, WI. Donna always loved the “little children” and was blessed with 9 grandchildren; Jennifer (Angelo) Horbacz, Stephanie Moran, Katey (Chad Johnson) Fortun, Tyler (Megan) Fortun, Krista (Alex) Kohnert, Megan (Zach Mathison) Fortun, Cody (Emma Frydenlund) Fortun, Jessy (Olivia Amrhein) Fortun and Emily Fortun. To further bless Donna’s life, she welcomed 5 great-grandchildren with open arms: Jackson Kohnert, Audrey Horbacz, Liberty Fortun, Madelyn Kohnert and Elizabeth Horbacz. Grandma was anxiously awaiting the birth of two new grandsons to add to the mix.

Grandma, Grandpa and Grandkids
Grandma, Grandpa and Great-Grandkids

Donna and Maynard farmed the Ottum family farm west of Westby until 2013. Donna was the ultimate “care-giver” and was always willing to help those she encountered. Because of that she created life-long relationships with many who started out as strangers but soon became family. Her life was truly blessed and she will be dearly missed.

Donna was preceded in death by her Mom and Dad, her brothers, Fredrick and David in infancy and Marvin and many of her beloved relatives and friends.

How do you sum someone’s life up on a piece of paper? It will never be enough to honor the life that Donna lived. Now it’s our job to teach the world what Donna so openly shared with each of us. Spread the good and care for others. We will all do that with her wonderful memories.

God Bless you Donna Mae … we love you to the moon and back. Yours was
certainly a life well lived. Rest peacefully, you deserve it.

Written By: Lynn Fortun



  1. Lynn says:

    Beautiful …a great honor to a Grandma 🥰

you said: