Submitted by Fran Barbush
The members of the AWCC extend our sympathy to Donna’ surviving family. Her devoted husband, Gary; her daughter, Lonice Wells (Keith), Cindy Musselman; her stepson, Aaron Otto; sister, Laura Artinger (Robert); and beloved grandchildren, Layla Raye Musselman, Wynn Musselman, and Laura Wells.
Bob Griewahn asked if I could write something about our neighbor Donna Otto. For those of you who knew her, I hope that you will recognize her from my reflections, and find inspiration from the way she lived her life.
What words could I use to describe Donna Otto?
Beautiful, funny, successful, charming, generous, loyal, competitive, focused, engaging, welcoming, compassionate, and loving come to my mind very quickly. But these individual words could never capture the vitality and love of life that she exhibited. When I first met Donna she was dating Gary and was meeting other long time neighbors for the first time. She completely disarmed me with her candor. I learned that you could talk with Donna about anything. She actively listened, and had a gift for building strong relationships. All her friends sought her counsel, her listening ear, and her shoulder. I think it was because she valued people, and was open and honest with them. I can also say that I never heard her speak negatively about anyone. Donna had accomplished much in her life, but would remind people that she was from “the bottoms” of McKees Rocks. She never wanted to put too much distance from where she grew-up.
I feel so blessed to have known her, become one of her friends, and shared wonderful precious moments. My last fun moment with Donna was on the 4th of July. I met her on her porch on my way home from watching the fireworks on Allegheny River. Carrie Doyle, brought out some sparklers. A collection of neighbors – young and old; the grandchildren – Layla Raye, Wynn, and Laura; Donna and I enjoyed one of those youthful moments twirling and writing with sparkler wands. I thought to myself, “Remember this.” I try to keep these wonderful moments strongly in my memory. They are precious to me.
Donna loved life. She did all that was possible to spend as much time living as she could. That is why it is particularly sad that she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer on Tuesday, August 5, 2014. After her death, I was talking with friends and we were surprised that we had a common thought. “What Would Donna Do?” We decided to keep this in our minds when faced with decisions. We felt we couldn’t go wrong if we approached life as she did. We spoke about the extra time she would take to invite you in; drive you somewhere; look at your pictures; share a glass of wine; sing and dance in the kitchen; help you select an outfit for a special occasion; or any number of other ways that she showed that she valued you. In doing so we all hope to be a little more like her.