Donna Lee (Harding) Riley
Donna Lee (Harding) Riley, 95, passed away on August 1, 2022, in Lawrence, KS. She was born to Glen and Clara (McDaniel) Harding on January 20, 1927, in Nikkeltown, Woodson County, Kansas, shortly before the doctor arrived.
She attended Nikkeltown School, a one-room schoolhouse across the road from the farm where she was born, from grades 1 through 8, where she proudly carved her initials into the north wall. She was the county high jump and 50-yard dash champion in the eighth grade. She graduated from Gridley High School as the valedictorian of the class of 1944.
Upon graduation she moved to Wichita to attend business school and to work as a secretary for a lumber yard. She met Gerald Riley, her future husband of nearly 71 years, on a blind date of miniature golf. They married on June 1, 1949. They lived in Minneapolis, KS, for a year before moving back to Wichita, where Donna worked at an accounting firm along with raising two sons.
She told stories of driving the family Model A on the 12 miles of dirt roads to high school after milking the cows. When there was no gas available during World War 2, she and her sister lived in Gridley for a short time so they would still be able to attend school. She remembered the days of black skies and putting wet sheets over the windows during the Dust Bowl. Later, she enjoyed spending time at the family cabin on the strip mining pits in Southeast Kansas, and vacations in Colorado, Minnesota, and Hawaii.
She enjoyed sewing. Sometimes Gerald would return from a weekend fishing trip and find newly re-upholstered furniture. She was an avid reader and enjoyed solving the world’s problems while sipping margaritas or coffee with her friend of over 70 years, Polly Draut.
Donna was affectionately known to her family as “Kuku”, a name that originated when she would lift her oldest grandson to the cuckoo clock and turn the hands to watch the bird come out. She had special stories about each grandchild, and she went out of her way to make each one feel unique and special.
In retirement, she and Gerald ate breakfast most mornings at Jeanne’s restaurant (now Livingston’s Cafe) in Wichita with their extended family. When they pulled into the parking lot, the cook would start their order.
Donna and Gerald moved to Lawrence in 2018, where she enjoyed going out to eat, getting her hair done, holding hands with Gerald, and being kissed by her “grand-dog” Sadie.
Donna was funny, creative, selfless and was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and friend.
Donna is survived by two sons: Steve (Marcia) of Lawrence, Tim (Ann) of Norman, OK; five grandchildren: Paul (Rachel), Lisa Braden (Ryan), and David, all of Norman, Justin of Nevada City, CA, and Matt of Asheville, NC; and four great-grandchildren: Avery, Miles, Connor, and Clara.
She was preceded in death by her parents, husband Gerald, and siblings Maxine, Frank, Lorraine, and Kenny.
The family would like to express their appreciation to the staff at Monterey Village for their love and attention over the last four years. Private family memorials are planned. There will be no public service. The family suggests donations to the following organizations in Donna’s name:
Visiting Nurses Association: www.kansasvna.org 200 Maine St. Suite C, Lawrence, KS 66044
Victory in the Valley: www.victoryinthevalley.org/donation 3755 E Douglas Ave, Wichita, KS 67218
Donations can also be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.
So sorry to hear of your loss. I knew Donna from her volunteering at Exploration Place in Wichita. She was always so pleasant to be around and talked so lovingly about her family. Find comfort in knowing she is again with her Gerald.
I was saddened to hear of Donna’s death. I know she had lots of ailments and is now reunited with Gerald and her family and friends in his Heavenly Arms. I Treasure the many growing up years we spent with her and her family and then the Harding Family Reunions in Yates Center. She and Gerald visited me after I moved to Burlington. Sadly lost communication. They remained in my thoughts. I have a new email address