On October 11, 2021, after a prolonged battle with mixed dementia, our beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister in law, aunt, and dearest friend, Donna Mae Gornick, passed away peacefully surrounded by her family at the Tobacco Root Mountain Care Center in Sheridan, MT.
Donna was born in Kalispell, MT on March 31, 1937 to Elmer Scott Buck and Mary Opal Buck. Within the next few years, she became a big sister to her brother, Dick, and sister, Carol. At the age of five, Donna’s father, Elmer, was killed in a hunting accident. Her mother, Opal, then married Louis Moos in June of 1948, and Donna and her siblings were adopted at that time.
Donna attended elementary and high schools in Kalispell, MT, Lincoln, NE, and graduated Billings Central High School in Billings, MT. She continued her education by pursuing her nursing degree at Carroll College in Helena, MT. While using her nursing skills at Fort Harrison Veterans Administration Hospital in Helena, Donna first met her future husband Sonny. Sonny was a patient at the Fort and Donna knew from the first time she met him that Sonny was hers. She was quick to tell the other nurses that were “interested” in Sonny that he was off limits! Suffice to say, with little need of convincing, he felt the same way. Sonny became the love of her life and her husband on June 11, 1960. Donna and Sonny began their life together on the Gornick family farm in Waterloo, MT. They wasted no time starting a family, being blessed with three children, Mike, Ann, and Kathy.
Donna raised Mike, Ann, and Kathy while helping with the family farming duties. Milking cows, processing potatoes, cooking for crews, bailing hay, and her favorite, ironing her families clothes were just a few of the many chores she helped with around the farm. Second to none, however, she was a loving mother. She was always involved with her kid’s extra-curricular activities, sports, and 4-H endeavors. She raised them to be hard workers, and to be kind and caring in everything they did. Whether she was hauling Mike to basketball practice, helping Ann getting the show animals ready for 4-H, or making sure Kathy had a formal dress for the next band concert, Donna always held her kid’s interests ahead of everything else.
Donna later continued her nursing career, working at various medical centers. She worked for Dr. Hill in Whitehall until his retirement, the Montana State Home in Boulder, and the Park Royal Convalescent Home in Butte, where she implemented their first Alzheimer’s unit. Sonny and Donna sold their part of the Gornick Family Ranch in 1994. They then moved to Sheridan after buying a house in the beautiful heart of Ruby Valley. There, Donna rounded out her nursing career at the Tobacco Root Mountain Care Center in Sheridan, MT and retired as the Director of Nursing on June 30, 1999.
After Donna retired in 1999, she and John moved to Whitehall and enjoyed many years of their retirement with family and friends. Traveling was a favorite of Donna’s with a 25th wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii, an Alaska Cruise with extended family from Montana and Oregon, and various bus trips with special friends that included the Calgary Stampede, the NFR in Las Vegas, Butchart Gardens and Nashville. These were just a few of her adventures, but she always enjoyed getting out there and seeing new places.
RV camping was also a special time for Donna. Whether camped at Mill Canyon, Canyon Ferry, Gornick’s Easter Campout, Hostfest in Minot, ND, or at the various National Search & Rescue meetings, Donna thoroughly enjoyed her time RV’ing with family and friends. She could usually be found enjoying a cup of coffee, a diet Coke, or a crochet pattern with those around her. There was always time for at least one more cup of coffee, no matter what the clock said. Don’t forget a cold bowl of sweet and creamy ice cream!
Along with Sonny, Donna was a member of the SNPJ Lodge and attended many polka parties, listening to Sonny, Joanie and others playing their accordions. Donna loved the music, but loved to dance with Sonny even more. There was always smoke on the dance floor when they were a’two steppin’.
Donna was a devoted Catholic, attending St. Theresa Catholic Church in Whitehall and St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Lewistown, MT. While living in Whitehall, she was a Eucharistic Minister, a member of the Ladies Auxiliary, and provided ironing for the church vestments.
Following her husband’s death in 2014, Donna moved to Lewistown, MT to live with her daughter, Kathy, and son in-law, Doug. The Lewistown community welcomed her and as always, it didn’t take her long to make some special friendships. These new friendships took Donna on many adventures to weekly lunch dates, holiday & birthday dinners (egg dying & singing included), and sightseeing trips to Yellowstone Park.
Of all the many blessings in her life, Donna’s grandchildren and great grandchildren were her greatest. She always said, “If I could have I would have had grandchildren first! No offense kiddos..” They were her pride and joy. Donna loved living in Whitehall where the miles between her seven grandchildren met in the middle of the distance between them, making visits frequent. Many memories were made with Donna and her grandchildren from baking chocolate chip cookies and povitica, to teaching the kids to crochet, to making crafts for homemade Christmas presents. The grandchildren cherished Donna’s warmth and love, especially when she sang them her favorite song, ‘I Love You a Bushel & a Peck”.
Donna was preceded in death by her beloved husband of 53 years, John (Sonny) Gornick, her parents Elmer Buck, Opal and Louis Moos, her sister Carol Anderson, her brother Richard Dick Moos, her mother in-law and father in-laws John Gornick, Helen Gornick Way, Stewart Way and special friend Billie Jo Woods.
Donna is survived by her three children Mike (Dawn) Gornick of Missoula, MT, Ann Gornick of Sheridan, MT, and Kathy (Doug) Robbins of Jefferson City, MT, her seven grandchildren, Aleisha (Will Shirley), Danielle (Lane Colyer), Michaela Gornick, Kelly Jo Elser, Zachary (Dezzi) Elser, Kristin (JR Gustafson), Kurtis Robbins, and her four great grandchildren Nayelli, Rosie, Ella and Emmylou. Donna’s fifth great grandchild is due in December.
Donna is also survived by her brother in law and sisters in law, Mark and June Gornick of Clancy MT, Joanie Jones (Joe Kilminster) of Whitehall, MT, and Eileen Moos of Las Vegas, NV, numerous nieces and nephews and special family friends Ruth McGlothlin and family.
A mass service will be held at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Whitehall, MT, at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, October 18, 2021, followed by committal at the Whitehall Cemetery and then a luncheon reception will follow at St. Theresa’s.
Memorials can be made in her honor to Tobacco Root Mountain Care Center, Sheridan, MT, St. Theresa’s Lady’s Auxiliary, or charity of your choice.