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Iowa Mourns: Donna Garvey was a gifted writer and a good mom
IOWA MOURNS: REMEMBERING DONNA GARVEY

Iowa Mourns: Donna Garvey was a gifted writer and a good mom

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WILTON – As a girl, Donna Garvey fell off a slide while playing at recess in Nichols, hitting the concrete and fracturing her skull. During recovery, she learned that she had lost a good portion of her hearing. While struggling with hearing loss most of her life, it did not stop her from learning to play piano and organ by ear.

Her daughter, Kayla Mathis, remembers her mother playing mostly Christian music.

“My grandparents had an organ,” Kayla explained. “She played every now and again. It was awesome.”

Growing up, Kayla remembers having to make all the phone calls for the family. With her hearing problem, Donna was not able to talk on the phone. Her mother read lips and could hear slightly, but couldn’t understand what was being said.

Due to the hearing loss, Donna attended a vocational rehabilitation school in Iowa and never graduated college. But Donna was a gifted writer, writing everything from her own music to short stories to poetry. Kayla also said her mother had enjoyed spell checking any printed periodical she happened to have, giggling to herself if she found a misprint or a spelling error.

Kayla remembers reading stories her mother wrote about a hedgehog names Spike. Sometimes she would chronicle life experiences. Her mother’s humor shone through in the writings. She was also a voracious reader, one time reading a phone book from cover to cover. Donna was also known for loving cats. Her last cat, named “Monkey” died about eight years earlier.

“I still talk to her every day,” Kayla said, of her mother, who died Christmas Day of COVID-19. “I have become friends with a few people who are complete strangers to me, but my mom was very online friendly and met people from all over. She has friends in other countries and sometimes they will message me.”

Kayla said they talked about everything. Donna always had a Bible verse or a link to a song for her and no matter how bad something was bothering her was, it would get better.

“She always had an answer for everything,” Kayla said. “If there was no real good answer she would say to pray. She was very big into Christianity, although she never went to church. Ironically, her last name before she got married was Church.”

As the pandemic took hold, Donna and Kayla’s almost daily talks moved online.

Donna's friend of 40 years, Lynn Rohr Cozad, said the two were like an “old married couple” telling each other everything.

“She was my one true and loyal friend who always found a way to keep in touch,” she said. “It’s rare to have that kind of friendship these days … any days.”

Kayla still holds dear the simple message she had sent to her mother via Facebook as she woke up Christmas morning —“Merry Christmas, Mama.”

It was that morning Kayla realized something was very wrong. Donna hadn’t called Kayla on her wedding anniversary (Dec. 24) or on Christmas morning.

The family called for a welfare check and discovered Donna had died in bed. Doctors believe she stopped breathing in her sleep, likely due to complications from the coronavirus.

On Dec. 23, she had tested negative, but a test at the funeral home came back positive.

Mathis said her sister, Jessamarie Garvey, had stayed with her mother for a few weeks as Jessamarie prepared to give birth. But Donna was not allowed  to have overnight guests at her apartment, so Kayla took her sister in.

Jessamarie didn't realize she was COVID-19 positive but asymptomatic, until she went to the hospital to have her baby.

Donna began feeling sick shortly after becoming a grandmother again and the illness kept getting worse, Kayla said. Her mother began having a hard time breathing, but Donna refused to go to the hospital.

On her Facebook page, Donna had posted about how 2020 had not been a good year and about how eager she was for the pandemic to be over. Many posts also shared her pride in her two daughters. One of her last online posts was “My granddaughter is now 8 days old, & I've never even been in the same room with her, much less held her. It's so frustrating, but it's because of this damn coronavirus — I have been sick, & need to get tested.”

She never got to meet her granddaughter.

“She was a good mom,” Kayla said. “She was a very good person.”

Iowa Mourns: Around the state

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Sanford Naiditch always wore his World War II veteran hat — except for when he saw another soldier.

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Edison “Ed” Davis never went pheasant hunting with the other fathers and sons in State Center, a rural burgh on the outskirts of Marshall County. Returning with hearty backslaps and new jokes, the group seemed closer after the outings, carrying as many stories as they did birds.

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Shawna Gilleland always ended nightly chats with her mother with the same few phrases: "Good night. Sweet dreams. Don't let the bed bugs bite. Love you and talk to you tomorrow."

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There are people who really enjoy reading. There are bibliophiles.

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Therese J. Harney spent hours and hours in bowling alleys trying out grips, practicing approaches and watching her ball ramble down the lane a…

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With a swing set, a sandbox, a tetherball court and a little red playhouse built to look like a train engine, Lucille Dixon Herndon ensured he…

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Regina Thiry was an expert quilter.

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Jose Gabriel Martinez handed his oldest son a map.

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Deb Miller first started talking to Jim Miller Jr. from the backseat of his taxi cab.

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Mel Stahmer’s favorite bar trick almost never failed.

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In Iowa City’s Hickory Trail neighborhood, it was common knowledge that Ed McCliment took a morning stroll to a nearby convenience store and r…

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Patrick C. Parks and aviation were a match made in the heavens.

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Walt Bussey kept his Aunt Katie Jacobs' leather work boots when she moved into a nursing home eight years ago, hoping she would one day return…

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Mary “Kitty” Rolfes loved to gab, usually about her family.

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Norma Jean Perry loved being a grandmother so much that she didn’t stop with her own eight grandchildren.

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Stan Patrick bled Cub blue.

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For someone who loved practical jokes as much as Edith Elida Anderson, April 1 took strategy.

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If there was ever a cause for celebration — from St. Patrick’s Day to birthdays to retirements — Jim Orvis had a greeting card for it.

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David Worthington never backed down from a fight.

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You’ve heard stories about people walking to school through wind and rain, frigid cold and blinding snow.

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Wiuca Iddi Wiuca spent most of his life in limbo, searching for a place to call home.

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Lola Nelson's green thumb earned her a reputation in the small town of Ollie.

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After growing up an only child, Marilyn Elizabeth Prouty knew she wanted a big family — a dozen children, to be specific.

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When Amy Gardner was younger, she was, admittedly, a troublemaker. Her transgressions were generally kids’ stuff, like taking her parents' car…

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You’ll have to excuse Janet Baxa’s laughs when she talks about meeting her husband, Kenneth "Ken" Baxa.

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Nobody made peanut butter frosting like Barbara McGrane-Brennan. At least, that's what her daughter, Tonya Brennan, says.

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Bryce Wilson always had rhythm in his heart.

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Jackie Lake left her Oklahoma home on a quintessential autumn day in October 1987, heading northeast to Iowa to meet this new friend her broth…

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The turtle figurine on Abbie Eichman's work desk always faced north.

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When Barbara Jean Sherman first met Jerome George Sherman, a military man with orders to post in Fairbanks, Alaska, she knew there was a spark…

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Don Lole cultivated such strong, deep roots in the small, rural town of Villachuato, Mexico, that he became a living landmark.

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Even dogs could tell Daryle Jass was a good guy.

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Darla Brown loved dogs.

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Carroll White deserved a better 100th birthday celebration.

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