Beloved daughter, sister, aunt and cousin Dona Lela Thornton passed away in her sleep on January 13, 2015, five days after her 70th birthday. Dona resided at the Denton State-Supported Assisted Living Center after living most of her life with her mother, Naomi “Mimi” Thornton, who survives her.
Dona was born on January 8, 1945, in Longview, Texas, to Mimi and Oscar K. Thornton. She grew up in Dallas with her devoted parents, her big sister Merrily Thornton Sartain, and a loving extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins. As a student at James B. Bonham Elementary School, where her mother was a teacher, Dona struggled to keep up with her peers. When the family moved to North Dallas in 1953, Dona repeated the second grade at the George B. Dealey Elementary School. In a time before public schools were mandated by law to accommodate students with intellectual and developmental differences, Dona was asked to leave the school district after the second grade. She was given a diagnosis of mental retardation.
Dona’s parents enrolled her in private institutions, where she made friends and learned to read and write. In her young adult years, she worked in various jobs, and she and her mother attended events sponsored by the ARC of Dallas. Friday night dances were a particular favorite of Dona’s. She also loved music – Elvis Presley, Alan Jackson and especially the Beatles. In 1964, she was one of the screaming teens in the audience when the Beatles made their one and only concert appearance in Dallas. Dona was outgoing and affectionate, never knowing a stranger and cheerfully announcing to people she met that, “I’m saying prayers for you.”
After her father died in 1968, Dona lived with her mother in her childhood home on Royal Lane. She delighted in weekend visits from her niece Sophie Sartain and her nephews Keith Sartain and Bo Sartain. More recently, Dona’s family home was filled with great nieces and nephews, who brought her joy. She and her mother attended Preston Hollow United Methodist Church, and were regular visitors to the Preston Royal shopping center and NorthPark Mall.
In 2009, when Dona’s mother could no longer care for her, the family made the difficult decision to move Dona to the Denton State-Supported Assisted Living Center. Her health declined and she was given a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. The family wishes to thank the facility’s caregivers, who treated Dona with compassion and dignity.
Dona’s life is chronicled in the documentary “MIMI AND DONA,” which will screen February 21st at the Thin Line Film Festival in Denton. A memorial service for Dona was held on January 30th at 1:30 pm in the chapel at the Denton State-Supported Assisted Living Center. Donations in her memory may be made to Community For Permanent Supported Housing (www.txcpsh.org/Dona or CPSH, 2306 Lawndale Pl Plano, TX 75023-7716), or to any organization that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
In memory of Dona, your donation will support community living for adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
Remember, CPSH is a 501(c)(3). "You may deduct charitable contributions of money or property made to qualified organizations, if you itemize your deductions." (IRS Publication 78)