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Donna McGrath

Donna McGrath, age 97, of Madison, passed away peacefully February 4, 2021 at Bethel Lutheran Home with family by her side.  

There will be a private family Mass of Christian Burial on Monday, February 8th at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church with Father Anthony Urban as the Celebrant.  Visitation will be 1-7 PM at Rustand-Weiland Funeral Chapel, the family will not be present at the visitation.  Burial will be in St. Thomas Cemetery.  Please wear a facemask while attending either event.  The funeral mass will be livestreamed on the funeral chapel Facebook page.  

Donna was born to Henry C. Woldt and Ethel (Aldrich) Woldt on May 13, 1923, on her family’s farm near Rutland, SD. She was raised alongside her three brothers, Kenny, Carroll and Dwaine, and four sisters, Virginia, Derva, Marion and Mildred. 

An early love of farming and family became the foundation for Donna’s adult life. After graduating from Rutland High School, Donna married Merle McGrath and they farmed in the Rutland area for many years. Together, Donna and Merle raised five daughters and a son. Throughout their lives they saw their family expand by seventeen grandchildren, twenty-one great-grandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren. 

Donna and Merle retired from farming in 1986 and moved to Madison, where their retirement was as filled with family as their lives on the farm had been. They regularly hosted holidays, family dinners and many other gatherings, and there was almost always at least one “grand” or “great-grand” hanging around. Donna worked tirelessly to make sure they were all well behaved, well loved and well fed. She always succeeded in at least two of those efforts. Donna’s family often speaks of many of her favorite recipes with reverence. Attempts to replicate them are often judged as being “pretty good, but not the same as when grandma makes it.”

Donna’s favorite pastimes included cheering on the Twins during baseball season, tapping her toes to Nat King Cole and other singers and songwriters and being fiercely competitive during card games. She was a particularly accomplished Canasta player and taught her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren many (but not all) of her tricks. Her quick wit made each game an event full of laughter and warmth. 

She is survived by her five daughters: Carole Ann Van Hecke and husband, Jim, of Colman, SD; Mary Lou Chapman of Fort Collins, CO; Jean Stephenson and husband, Ted, of Fridley, MN; Teresa Watson and husband, Roch, of Flandreau, SD; and Patti Beck and husband, Jay, of Madison, SD; as well as many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Donna was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Merle, her beloved son, Bill, granddaughter Kelli, and her seven siblings. 

Donna was a lifelong member of St. Thomas Aquinas Church. She participated in the St. Thomas Alter Society and through her involvement in the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, she shared her faith through love and service.


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