Richard “Dick” Donat, 85, of Staples passed away peacefully amidst the oak trees at the Quiet Oaks Hospice House, St. Augusta, December 15, 2020, after spending the day holding the hands of his wife and daughters.
A funeral service and celebration of life will be scheduled at a later time.
Dick was born into a farming family on August 4, 1935 in his beloved Upsala to Frank and Anna Donat. He attended St. Cloud State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the University of Minnesota, feeling great pride in serving as both vice president and president of his classes in college. He was forever grateful for the opportunity to pursue his education, but never forgot the lessons he learned on the farm alongside his family. He was always a farmer at heart, teaching Agriculture and serving as FFA advisor first in Motley and then in Staples. He later served as a Title I/Federal Programs Director and then the Assistant Superintendent for Staples Schools.
Dick recalled lessons learned in Boy Scouts until the very end. Time spent with good friends, a troop canoeing trip, horseback riding at Philmont Scout Ranch and attending the Boy Scout National Jamboree all made lasting impressions upon him. He would often share with his grandchildren the lessons he learned as a football, basketball and baseball player for the Upsala Cardinals. Richard was fond of reminiscing of his days on the farm, helping his mom and dad after the rest of his siblings were grown and married.
On July 19, 1969 Dick married the love of his life, Kerwin Jacobson after being set up on a blind date at his cabin. A smile always spread across his face as he remembered how Kerwin, who not believing she would have the opportunity to go back to the cabin, water skied around the lake 26 times. Little did she know they would end up sharing that same cabin for 51 years. Dick’s daughters, Kari and Kim were his world. Dick taught them to value family, their faith and community and to be lifelong learners.
His professional sources of pride were being named to the Minnesota Teacher of the Year Honor Roll, leading the FFA Goodwill Tour to Europe, assisting in the senior high rise apartments, seeing the Community Center in Staples become a reality, attracting industry to the area and working on the Centennial Auditorium. Former Superintendent, Jack Nelson once said, “Dick Donat was synonymous with economic development in Staples. If someone asked about starting a business, they were told to talk to Dick.” He was a humble man, always using we, not I, but greatly appreciated receiving the Staples Lifetime Achievement Award. It was less about the award and more about what people with a passion to work together towards a common goal, can accomplish.
He was an active and dedicated community and church member having served in just about every capacity at Faith Lutheran Church, Rotary, Jaycees, Civic and Commerce Association, Rural Minnesota CEP, the Initiative Foundation, Region Five Economic Development Board, MN Business and Finance, MN Business and Technology, the Workforce Center, the Staples Development Corporation, the Unity Bank Board, recruiting doctors to the area, FFA, Arts Council, Todd County Fair Board and Boy Scouts. He had cherished memories of Rotary Art Shows, lutefisk church dinners, Farmers Night on the Town events, the Central Lakes Irrigation Farm and running for the House of Representatives.
Everyone who knew him understood what it was like to be questioned by Dick Donat. He was forever curious about people and their pursuits. He valued a good question and always intently listened to the answer. One of Richard’s professors once advised him, “I know of no one who has learned more from what you do than you do. Keep that up. It is a good trait to have.” That advise always served him well.
He was most passionate about his family and never missed the opportunity to twirl Kerwin around the dance floor, read to his girls or attend his grandchildren’s many events. He forever treasured month long June family road trips, winters at South Padre Island and summers at the cabin. Sitting on the dock, listening to the call of the loons brought him peace.
Richard is survived by his wife, Kerwin (Jacobson) of Staples and two daughters, Kari (Donat) Kreft and husband John and Kim Donat and husband Joshua Lipschultz and his treasured five grandchildren, Hailey, Brianna and Isaac Kreft and Hanna and Elizabeth (Libby) Lipschultz. He also leaves behind many nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters-in-laws and extended family and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Frank and Anna Donat; one brother, Leslie and wife, Lois; two sisters, Rosella and husband Marvin and Viola (Dolly) and husband Clifford.
Arrangements by Benson Funeral Home, St. Cloud.