Donna Rae Simpkins

Marguerite Connolly and Arthur Hugo Ross welcomed their daughter, Donna Rae, into this world at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Sioux City, Iowa on April 17, 1938 at 9:17 AM.

Both parents are deceased, as is her older brother Art. Donna is survived by Art’s wife Jo Anne and their son Rick as well as her Connolly cousins Keith (Patricia),

Barbara Hicks (Charles). Donald Rosencrantz (Alice) and by Phyliss Thomson (Bill), her best friend forever.

Donna was an honor student at both Immaculate Conception and Bishop Heelen High School where she graduated in 1956. She was Homecoming Queen in her senior year and then chosen to participate in the Miss America contest.

Donna graduated from Morningside College while teaching dance lessons professionally, using some of her earnings to pay for a pale yellow Plymouth convertible.

That pale yellow convertible drove her to Dallas to accept a position as Flight Dispatcher with Braniff Airlines.

Donna married and gave birth to Kevin Simpkins, who became her pride and joy, as did his wife Amy and daughter Megan.

An interest in retailing led to a new career as a buyer for Dallas stores. Donna then became the founding manager of the Seville Shoppe on Camp Bowie in Fort Worth, making it the destination of choice for Westsiders seeking traditional women’s wear.

Jim Killough was Donna’s first and last blind date, leading her to relocate to New York City in 1985 and marry him. She became a partner in the Hunting & Killough consulting firm.

A top priority was to continue her higher education. Donna studied psychology and classical philosophy, graduating cum laude from Marymount Manhattan College.

Donna created beautiful homes for the two of them from a loft in Tribeca, an apartment in Brooklyn Heights, a house in Bronxville and then her favorite place of all: A wooded property in the Hudson Highlands at Garrison, across the river from West Point where she became a faithful and active parishioner at the Cadet Chapel.

She and Jim enjoyed winters in St. Maartens or on Lido Key in Sarasota and summers at their cottage at Thousand Island Park on Wellesley Island in the St. Lawrence River. Several springtimes were spent at Punta Ala, a village on the Tuscan coast not far from Sienna, their favorite mid-sized city, and Massa Maritima, their favorite little mountain town. 

But Donna’s greatest joy and magnum opus was closer to home. Their two families becoming one. Kevin and Amy joining James and Wes, Sarah and Vishal, Hunt and Angie. Granddaughter Megan joining Savannah, Uma, Logan and Maya.

Coming from California, Colorado, and New York to Arlington, Texas, all thirteen were her surprise and her best-ever gift for her best-ever (80th) birthday in mid April. A family she created from 33 years of support, encouragement, example and unfailing love.

Sadly, this best-ever celebration of Donna and her creation would be our last in her presence.

Two months later, what she thought was a pulled back muscle from laying paving stones for an outdoor grill was diagnosed as metastatic pancreatic cancer. She chose palliative care, initially as an inpatient at UT Southwestern, rather than endure the side effects of aggressive chemotherapy.

In the words of Dr. Reeni Abraham, her Senior Attending Physician at UT Southwestern:

“I know we only met Donna for a brief period, but all of us on the medical team were immensely touched by her incandescent spirit and impressive courage. Every encounter we had with Donna we could sense was absolutely genuine and although she was under the worst of circumstances she always exuded an ethereal calm. She will be missed by all.”

On July 14th, just thirty-six days after her diagnosis, Donna died at her home in Granbury, in her own bed and her husband’s arms, surrounded by her family.

She taught us this from her strong Christian faith: “God’s Plan will never take me where His Love will not protect me.” And this in her last days: “I am going Home now to be with our God.”

She simply asked the family she had brought together to continue to deepen its bonds. And to encourage her five granddaughters, her “grandgirls,” to achieve in their lives the full fruition of their creative selves.   

Just as Donna had done with her own remarkable time on earth.

A family celebration of her life will be held on October 6 at the Fountain in Shanley Park of Granbury, TX led by Army Colonel (Ret) Mike Durham, Donna and Jim’s senior pastor from West Point.

With the spoken and musical testimony of Donna’s children and granddaughters. More events will follow in the months and years to come as we realize just how much Donna has done for us all.