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Donna Charlene Kernich nee Parker was born September 8, 1951, at Wabash General Hospital in Mt. Carmel, Illinois. She was the first baby born in the town’s new hospital.
Donna was the third child born to Sophia Marie Elise Parker nee Kleinschmidt and James Leroy Parker. They resided in Browns, Illinois. The family subsequently relocated to Litchfield and then to Mt. Olive when Donna was in third grade. She was confirmed at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Mt. Olive in 1965 and remained an active member there the rest of her life. She attended Immanuel Lutheran School and Mt. Olive Community High School. Donna exceled in school and participated in several extra-curricular activities at MOCHS. She was a member of the National Honor Society and graduated as the salutatorian of her class in 1969.
Following high school, Donna financed her own college education. She began at Lincoln Land Community College and then transferred to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, earning her Bachelor of Science in education in 1974. Following graduation from SIUE, she accepted her first teaching position at Jerseyville Community High School. She taught speech and drama and was also the Drama Club sponsor. She took a sabbatical from work and earned her Master of Science in Education from SIUE in 1981. In 1984, Donna accepted the guidance counselor position at Mt. Olive High School. She remained in that position until her retirement in 2006.
Donna married David Victor Kernich on October 7, 1978, at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Mt. Olive. The ceremony was led by Donna’s cousin, Rev. Donald Kleinschmidt. Donna and David enjoyed many trips together throughout their marriage, including a honeymoon in Acapulco and several visits to New England and to Grafton’s Tara Point Inn to enjoy the autumn leaves. Donna and David had two daughters: Dana Victoria in 1983 and Dawn Christine in 1988.
Donna was a 25-year member of Mt. Olive’s Delta Tau Sorority. She was also a long-time member of the Edwardsville Kennel Club. She had the distinction of showing her Tibetan terrier, Duffy, at shows throughout the Midwest and won numerous show titles. They achieved the ultimate award in 1989 when Duffy was named a Champion by the American Kennel Club. Donna’s faithful companion later in life was Dasher, the Kernich family’s beloved golden retriever.
Donna delighted in spending time with her two girls and helping them learn and grow into their best selves. She fostered their love of reading, helped them earn Girl Scout patches, encouraged their pursuits of dance, gymnastics, and piano, and sewed their prize-winning costumes for the annual Mt. Olive Kiddie Parade and Halloween parade. She loved selecting Christmas and Easter dresses for Dana and Dawn, even making many of their coordinating hair bows herself. Her love of celebrating holidays passed on to her girls, who now continue with many of the traditions Donna started.
Dana and Dawn participated in sports throughout their youth – softball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and track – and Donna never missed any contests. She was always there to cheer their successes and console them in defeat. When David took on basketball and softball coaching, Donna was by his side as assistant coach, statistician, or videographer. Donna steadfastly attended Dawn’s Augustana College softball and basketball games to cheer Dawn on. She was also an enthusiastic fan of the University of Notre Dame, David and Dana’s alma mater. She loved attending Notre Dame football games and planning tailgate parties with Dana.
Despite being in high school at a time when there were no sports for girls, Donna found outlets for her competitive nature and athletic talents. She was the youngest player on the Dempsey Voyles Women’s Traveling Fastpitch Softball Team. Later she played slowpitch softball for the women’s team managed by her high school classmate, Mike Grejtak. When volleyball leagues started at Turner Hall, Donna was an active player. Her teams won multiple championships in women’s volleyball and co-ed volleyball.
Donna was called home to her Heavenly Father on May 5, 2023, at 8:48 p.m. She was surrounded by family and dear friends. Donna is survived by her husband, David, as well as her two daughters, Dana Mayer (Andrew) and Dawn Kettler (Jordan). She also has three granddaughters, Valerie Kettler, Carmen Kettler, and Sophia Mayer. Other survivors include her siblings Damon Parker (Carolyn) and Lerona Pryor (Jay), as well as brother-in-law Brian Kernich (Peggy) and sister-in-law Sharon Parker. Three nephews and six nieces also survive. Donna was preceded in death by her parents and her older brother Terry Parker.
Memorials are suggested to the Benld Adopt-a-Pet Enrichment fund and Immanuel Lutheran Church Sanctuary Improvement Fund.
Visitation will take place from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, May 11, 2023 at Becker & Son Funeral Home in Mt. Olive, IL. A second visitation will take place 10-11 a.m. Friday, May 12, 2023 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Mt. Olive IL. Funeral service will follow the second visitation at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 12, 2023 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Mt. Olive, IL.