Donna Lea Osness

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.

38 Condolences

  1. Tracy Dethloff on December 3, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    I had Donna for a ninth grade health teacher at West Junior High. What a sweet lady she was. My condolences go out to the family.

  2. Patrick Parker on December 4, 2020 at 8:28 am

    Donna was a blessing to our community. I had several opportunities to work with her over the years on the School Health Advisory and Lawrence Memorial Hospital functions. My prayers go with her spirit and my condolences go with her family.

  3. Aynsley Anderson Sosinski on December 4, 2020 at 8:51 am

    Donna was such a kind and caring person. Her knowledge, talents and participation in so many areas of health and wellness contributed significant improvements to our community and those who live here. I always enjoyed our visits when our paths would cross at community board meetings or at LMH. My sincere condolences to all of the Osness family.

  4. Cindy Yulich on December 4, 2020 at 9:32 am

    What a loss for our community. Donna was a force of nature in everything she undertook. Our paths crossed when she was principal at Riverside and then again at LMH where she was always generous with her wisdom and counsel. There was nothing like touring Donna’s house during the holidays. As much as our community will miss her, it pales in comparison to how much her family will miss her. Peace to all who love her. God speed, Donna.

  5. Wayne McDaniel on December 4, 2020 at 9:34 am

    I am so sad to hear of Donna’s passing. I always felt affirmed while in her presence as she was a very uplifting person. Donna contributed a lot to our community and many lives are richer because of her. My condolences to Wayne and the family.

  6. Pam Smith on December 4, 2020 at 10:12 am

    My sympathies to Donna’s family. I worked with her at Riverside for several years. She was a delight.

  7. Paula Hatcher on December 4, 2020 at 11:58 am

    I am greatly saddened to learn of Donna’s passing. While she was the principal at Riverside, she hired me to be the nurse at Quail Run and Sunflower elementary schools. She was fearless, tireless leader for the nurses in the schools. She made many lives better. My condolences to Wayne and her family.

  8. Kathy Mossberg Newton on December 4, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    Wow. I was shocked to hear this from Suzanne the other night. This leaves only Ginger and Wayne from the “old” group. I was happy to see your folks again after many years at Howard’s “party”. I will always fondly remember the “multiple family” vacations. She was an amazing lady. Celebrate her life and many achievements. May your sadness give way to all of the happy memories and bring you peace.

  9. Marlene Merrill on December 4, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Donna was one of my first friends I made when I moved to Lawrence in 1992. We worked together in Lawrence Public Schools and I have never met a more caring. dedicated, and energetic leader. We were also Bridge buddies and I will miss our conversations. I will miss her bright light and am sure she will light up heaven.

  10. Kim (Scarbrough) Polson on December 4, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    I always enjoyed Donna’s energy and spunk as we worked together on the Holiday Homes Tour Committee — particularly when we’d meet in her sunroom in the middle of July to talk about Christmas decor. She was always willing to lend a hand (or volunteer Wayne’s) whenever needed. My deepest sympathy to the wonderful big family she loved so much.

  11. Mark Praeger on December 4, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    I was privileged to serve with Donna on the LMH board of trustees for 8 years. I witnessed her charm and leadership skills first-hand, and found her to be a great example. She and Wayne were very generous with their friendship, and it was clear what a great partnership she enjoyed with Wayne. Thank you, Donna, for your numerous contributions. You will be fondly remembered.
    Dr. Mark Praeger

  12. J.D.Cleavinger on December 4, 2020 at 6:41 pm

    Wayne Kids & Family
    My sincere sympathies to y’all
    A magnificent Lady Wife Mother G-Mother and contributor to this community that will be missed by all
    My prayers go with her Spirit
    J.d. cleavinger

  13. Sheryle D’Amico on December 4, 2020 at 9:48 pm

    To Wayne and the Osness Family, I am so sorry for this huge loss. I had the pleasure of serving on the HCA Board with Donna as well as working at LMH while she was on the Board of Trustees. She was a role model for me….amazing professional woman who managed to be the best mom, grandma and great grandma. She will be greatly missed by all. Sheryle

  14. Shirley Anderson on December 5, 2020 at 11:49 am

    Wayne, my prayers are with you and your family. I first met you and your family when you joined Trinity Lutheran Church many years ago and later your involvement with the Health Care Access Board and the Holiday Homes Tour. I especially enjoyed the times when I had the opportunity to visit with Donna at LMH after she attended LMH Trustee Board Meetings. She was an inspiration to everyone who knew her. Her love for you and your family was obvious.

  15. Bob Carlson on December 5, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    Wayne, I will miss Donna as we spoke many times over the many years we have had you insured and she always brought a smile to my face and my heart with her warmth and joyful soul, matched only by yours my friend. Two of the warmest and most wonderful people I have ever known! You guys made a wonderful, loving couple. I am not sure how you and your family go forward from here without Donna, but you’ll find a way as you are so strong Wayne. It is a huge loss! God bless all of you. She will be missed!

  16. Pete & Virginia Curran on December 5, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    Donna and Wayne extended to us much friendship and courtesies over the years, including invitations to their annual Christmas Tom & Jerry parties. We knew of many of Donna’s accomplishments and contributions to the common good of our community, but not all as described in her obituary. She was clearly a remarkably accomplished and caring person- one might say a pillar of our community who will be sorely missed. We very much regret her passing, and extend all our condolences to Wayne and family.

  17. Ann Ostrom on December 5, 2020 at 2:21 pm

    So many memories – such an amazing person, and whole wonderful family –
    Duck Lake won’t be the same without her.
    Ann Ostrom

  18. Gordon and Karen Abernathy on December 5, 2020 at 3:04 pm

    Donna was a very classy lady. Gordon and I consider it a privilege to have known her. Wayne, you have our condolences. Our prayers are with you and your family.

  19. Polly and Dean Blazek Antigo WI on December 6, 2020 at 7:23 am

    How we looked forward to seeing Donna and Wayne each summer at Duck Lake along with eight other classmates during traditional Friday night fish fries and celebrating Wayne’s birthday at their cottage. They are the kind of friends everyone wants to have! She was like a sister to me, sleepovers at her house, sewing for 4H projects, etc. I have always respected how unselfishly she lived her life but in reading over all her accomplishments I feel so fortunate to have known her. We are heartbroken for Wayne and their wonderful family.

  20. Mike and Cheri Thompson on December 6, 2020 at 9:05 am

    We were saddened to hear the news of Donna’s passing. Her compassion and commitment for any project she undertook was remarkable. Donna always made time for interesting and charming conversation. The generosity, caring and kindness that both she and Wayne shared with individuals and our community, are recognized and very much appreciated. We extend our sincere condolences to the family. Mike and Cheri Thompson

  21. Lyle and Sally Jo Alley, Circleville, Ks. on December 6, 2020 at 2:15 pm

    Our sincerest sympathy in your loss. May you find the Peace and Comfort through Christ during this time of loss.

  22. Dianne Thomas on December 6, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Donna hired me in 1997 to work as the School Nurse at West Junior High. I am forever grateful. Her tireless leadership and advocacy for school nursing continues to impact the students of USD497 to this day. With all of her accomplishments, her greatest joy was being a wife, mother, and grandmother. Wayne and kids, I am so very sorry for your loss.

  23. Dan and Julie (Larson) Rea on December 7, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    Our sympathies on your loss.

  24. Dan and Julie (Larson) Rea on December 7, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    Our sympathies on your loss.

  25. Rosemary Row Stephens on December 7, 2020 at 9:00 pm

    I was fortunate to be one of the Daughters to enjoy the Morher/Daughter Christmas Parties that Mrs. Osness hosted. I grew up with her daughters and spent many hours in their lovely homes. She was Elegant, Educated and I wished to Emulate her. Her passing is a huge loss and my Heart with her Family.

  26. steven wilhelm and liza morrison on December 8, 2020 at 11:56 am

    wow, cannot believe she is gone; she was always so alive; so full of energy , and such a great sense of humor, and a super-mother of course. I should say that her dreams did come true as she, when looking at her clan , children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren sees a group of well balanced, very successful people all of whom have great families themselves all tied together by enormous love.
    She and Doc had what I would call the All American Family which all Americans should strive to achieve. ,
    She will be more than missed- what a great woman, and she doubled as my second Mom; Mom, I love you and will miss you so much; hope you are in a better place now.
    Love Steve and Liza

  27. John Bowman on December 8, 2020 at 9:47 pm

    Condolences to the Osness family.

  28. Shelly on December 9, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    I’m so sad to hear this. What a great lady and great family! So many happy times spent during the summers at Duck Lake! Blessings and peace to you all.
    Shelly (Smith) Wood

  29. Dawn Wagner on December 10, 2020 at 9:19 am

    Seeing Donna and Wayne each summer in the great north woods of Wisconsin was always a great joy. Donna was always so happy to spend her time here with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. My mom lost a dear friend when Donna passed. Even though Donna and Wayne lived in Lawrence, Donna always called after they were back home to check in and see how things were going. I was able to talk to Donna often during her calls, and enjoyed the conversation. My heart goes out to Wayne and the rest of the family. Donna loved you all so much. Hugs to the entire family.

  30. Ron and Jane Garvin on December 10, 2020 at 10:51 am

    We appreciate the Osness family so very much. Our sincerest sympathy during this difficult time. In Jesus name.

  31. 2022 Camelback Drive, Lawrence, Kansas 66047 on December 12, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    Thank you and Donna for memorable parties, and cribbage feasts over the years. Our thoughts are with you and your family at this time of loss. George and
    Sherry Catt.

  32. Jim Haack on December 12, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    Wayne and family – We’re so sad to hear of Donna’s passing and our thoughts and prayers are with you. She was a great friend and neighbor ever since both our families migrated from WI in ’66. Loved the video tribute showing a wonderful lady, fun memories, and a beautiful family and legacy.

  33. Joe Weir on December 12, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    Wayne and Family,

    My condolences on the loss of Donna. She was a special lady, and it was my pleasure to get to know her since I have been at KU. Please know that I and the HSES Department have you in our thoughts and prayers.


  34. Kathy Heredia on December 12, 2020 at 7:06 pm

    Our sympathy and love to Wayne and the entire Osness family, we have wonderful memories of our families together that goes back to the 1950’s.
    May Our Lord give you all peace, comfort and strength in these difficult days.
    Our love always, blessings.
    Dr Sergio and Kathy Golueke Heredia and the entire Golueke family.
    Green Bay, Wisconsin

  35. Janet (Osness) Beyer-Thums on December 12, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    Dear Wayne and family: From over 600 miles away my family watched the beautiful service for Donna. We could feel the love of your family and wish we were there to show you how much we care. Donna was loved by the “faraway” cousins. She was beautiful and charming and we looked forward to seeing Donna at the Osness reunions. May you find all the love you need at this time.

  36. Heidi Hess on December 17, 2020 at 6:47 am

    Dear Wayne,
    I’m so sorry for your loss. You and your family are in my prayers. May God comfort you through your family, friends and your faith!

  37. Diane Ash on December 18, 2020 at 7:51 pm

    Dear Wayne, and the Osness extended family,
    I had the privilege of meeting Donna at an alcohol/drug task force meeting, which she chaired, in the early 90’s. It was the first such meeting and I saw the ad in the paper. I almost didn’t go, and thank goodness I did or I would have missed out on meeting, and eventually working with Donna. She sincerely cared about every child she met and wanted to do all in her power to help improve their living conditions. When someone in a meeting would say, “Well, it’s too bad the child doesn’t have this or that,” Donna would look around the circle of faces and say, “Well, why can’t we make that happen?! Let’s do it!” Her energy, love of life and enthusiasm were contagious, and her expertise in so many areas was undeniable. It was my honor to nominate her for the first Kansas “Pioneer in Prevention” award as her early efforts in the field of alcohol and drug prevention were groundbreaking and have stood the test of time. There are so many things I will miss about Donna, not the least of which is that sidewards glance, twinkle in her eye, and the under-her-breath sweetly (always with a smile) sarcastic comment she would quietly make when some adult in her orbit was not, in her view, acting appropriate. Donna’s way of making everyone feel special was simple: she looked you in the eyes when you walked into the room and her face lit up with a smile. Heaven will be aglow this year because Donna will set up a Christmas tree (different themes, of course) on every cloud…She was an extraordinary woman, but I don’t need to tell you that…I am so sorry for your loss.

  38. Pam Weiss on March 20, 2021 at 1:53 pm

    Dr. Osness, I am so sorry to read about Donna’s passing. She was my boss and friend while I was coordinator of the Shawnee Mission Sunflower Wellness Center. With her as my boss and you as my exercise physiology advisor, I realized that I could do well in science and math. Thank you both for helping me make dreams come true.

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