Donna Lea Murray Osness died on December 2, 2020. She was born on April 24, 1934 in Antigo, Wisconsin, the daughter of Carolyn Bishop Murray and Alex Murray. Donna graduated from Antigo High School and married her high school sweetheart, Wayne Osness. Together, while raising their family of one son and four daughters, they both completed their bachelor, masters, and doctorate degrees. Donna also completed her Nursing degree. They moved a number of times in Wisconsin, where Wayne taught and coached. In 1966 they moved to Kansas, where Wayne accepted a position at KU in the Physical Education Department as professor and graduate coordinator. Donna began her work at LMH as a Registered Nurse in the OB/GYN department and soon became involved with health education programs throughout the community and the State of Kansas.
Donna’s love of teaching drew her to complete another degree in Education at KU. She taught biology and health education at West Junior High and in 1974 accepted a position in the Shawnee Mission Public Schools as Director of Health Services and Health Education. During her eighteen year tenure there she supervised the school nurses, health and physical education teachers, and served on many State and National Committees. Always working to promote Prevention Programs and research that would better the lives of children. She collaborated with KU, overseeing research projects designed by faculty and students that were carried out in the SM Schools. She and Wayne designed and developed the Sunflower Project which promoted healthy nutrition and exercise for school children. The program gained national and international attention and allowed both Donna and Wayne to travel, speaking and consulting throughout the US and many other countries.
In 1991, Donna returned to Lawrence where she became the Principal of Riverside School. She also directed the School Nurse Program and oversaw the Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program for the schools. Donna was a prolific writer and she authored many successful grants for the programs she was associated with and she also authored and published many articles for professional papers and Journals.
However, her favorite writings were the poems she created reflecting on the beloved family cabin in Northern Wisconsin where the family always gathered each summer.
Donna retired in 2000, but she continued to work with and Chair many local committees and Boards such as Health Care Access, Douglas County Dental Clinic, Lawrence Social Service Funding Advisory Board, Mother To Mother, Community Health Improvement Program, K-State Research and Extension, Douglas County Children’s Network, Project freedom, Lawrence Partnership For Children and Youth, and the Lawrence Memorial Hospital Operating Board. During her lifetime Donna received many awards for her professional work and her community service. She was honored by the State Board of Education for her work with the State Health Education curriculum. In 1998 she received the Kansas State Health Educator of the Year Award. She and Wayne were recognized as Substantial Citizens by his Kiwanis Club, The Elizabeth Watkins Community Caring Award, American Heart Association Volunteer Award, Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Educator, nominated as Kansas Distinguished Principal, and in 2013 she was recognized as a Hero In Health Care by Ingrams Business Magazine of Kansas City.
Donna was active in her PEO group, Meadowlark Garden Club, University Women, Antiques interest group, book club, her long-time bridge groups and she chaired and co-chaired the Healthcare Access Christmas Tour of Homes and the LMH Hearts of Gold Ball for many years. Donna loved to cook for her family and their friends. She was a happy hostess and enjoyed giving small and large dinner parties. Wayne and Donna hosted their annual Tom and Jerry Party at Christmas for over forty years. Tradition was important to Donna and she always had their home decorated for the changing seasons. Christmas Eve before opening gifts that Donna had shopped for during the previous year the traditional prime rib dinner was served. The evening was the highlight of the year for the entire Osness family.
Donna leaves behind her beloved husband Wayne and their five children Patrick Osness (Barbara), Karen Thompson (Stan), Cinda Peck (Rod), Deena Osness, Lynne Buckley (Owen). She is also survived by nine grandchildren and nineteen great grandchildren. As an only child growing up she wished to someday be a mother, a nurse and have a large happy, healthy family. So, as she often said, all of her dreams did come true. She always encouraged her family to dream big, work hard, and expect a few miracles. She will be missed by her family, friends, and the community she loved.
In lieu of flowers, friends and family may send donations to “The Wayne and Donna Osness Endowed Fund” care of Lawrence Memorial Hospital Foundation, to be used for nursing scholarships and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.
Private family services will be held on the evening of Saturday, December 12, 2020 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lawrence.
Click Here to view the service live at 6 p.m., Saturday, December 12, 2020.