Floral 26

Donna Jean Spotts Blackburn

April 16, 1934 ~ April 24, 2022 (age 88)

Tribute

Donna Jean Spotts Blackburn was born April 16, 1934, in Ashland, Kansas, to Don and Carol Spotts.  Born a “Dust Bowl baby”, she had often been told the story of how her mom had to cover her crib with cheese cloth so the dust didn’t get in the baby’s lungs.  During the Great Depression, the family moved to Carlsbad, NM, Amarillo, TX, and Wellington, KS, while her dad started several businesses that went bust during hard times.  Finally they settled back in Ashland, KS, where Don opened a successful lumberyard which is still in business today.

Donna graduated from Ashland High School in 1952, and went to the University of Kansas, where she pledged Delta Delta Delta sorority.  She graduated from KU in 1956 with a Bachelor’s degree in physical education, and was a lifelong devoted Jayhawk.  She taught PE in Portland, OR, for several years before coming back to teach in Topeka, KS, public schools.  It was while she was the girls’ PE teacher at Crane Junior High that she started dating assistant principal Harold Blackburn in 1959.  After a whirlwind few months, they were engaged over the summer and married on December 28, of that year.

At that time it was unusual for wives of administrators to work, but due to the severe teacher shortage in the baby boom, Donna got her Master’s degree in education in 1962 and continued working until she became pregnant with their first-born child, Lee Blackburn, born in April of 1963.  Their daughter Laurie Blackburn was born almost exactly two years later.

In 1967, Harold took a job with the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in Kansas City, and the family moved to Lawrence, KS, for two years.  Then they moved to Overland Park, KS, where they lived for more than thirty years.  While the kids were growing up, Donna kept a very full schedule shuttling them to piano lessons, swimming lessons, cub scouts, church choir, etc., along with attending all their extra-curricular activities.  She also coached Laurie’s softball team for 4+ years and was an avid volunteer and youth group sponsor at church.

Always the social butterfly, Donna was not built for staying at home.  She started substitute teaching elementary school PE in the Shawnee Mission School District in 1974.  Then she moved to part-time teaching, and soon was teaching full-time.  She spent most of the rest of her teaching career at Cherokee Elementary School where she made many lifelong friends.

Even after retiring from Shawnee Mission Public Schools in 1992, Donna still wasn’t interested staying at home, so she started volunteering in the music department of Village Presbyterian Church.  She eventually had a part-time job there for nearly a decade.

In the spring of 2004, Harold was diagnosed with cancer, and she took excellent care of him until his death in June of 2005.  In 2007, she decided to pull up stakes and move to Alexandria, VA, to be with her grandsons Matthew and Jacob.  True to form, she worked part-time, drove the kids to lessons, volunteered in their classrooms, attended their school events, and was an ever-present and most beloved part of their lives.  It was a little surprising to see how quickly the lifelong Kansan acclimated to the DC metro area relatively late in life, but she said as long as she stayed off the Beltway, everything else was manageable.

In 2013, she moved into Goodwin House Alexandria.  At Goodwin House, she made friends who were like family, and loved her caregivers for all the kindnesses she received over the years.  All of these friends were a great comfort to her in the last year of her life as she experienced multiple health setbacks.  Her greatest gifts were gratitude, optimism, and good cheer, and she both gave and received these gifts with those around her until the time of her passing. 

Donna was preceded in death by her husband, Harold Lee Blackburn, Jr., her parents, Don and Carol Spotts, her sister and brother-in-law Betty and Richard Arnspiger, brother-in-law Frank Blackburn, and sister-in-law Helen Blackburn.  Donna is survived by her son and daughter-in-law Lee and Claudia Blackburn, daughter Laurie Blackburn, grandsons Matthew and Jacob Luhman, sisters-in-law Dorothy Blackburn and Ruby Blackburn, cousins, nieces, nephews, and innumerable friends who were as dear to her as family.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Goodwin House Foundation Staff Support Fund.


Services

Memorial Service
Thursday
May 12, 2022

3:00 PM
Goodwin House of Alexandria
4800 Fillmore Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22311

Reception Following Service
Thursday
May 12, 2022

Goodwin House of Alexandria
4800 Fillmore Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22311

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