Dona Willemsen

Dona Dian Willemsen died peacefully on Sept. 22, 2020, in Houston, TX at the age of 73 after a courageous year-long battle with cancer.

Dona was born on June 9, 1947, in Des Moines, IA where she grew up with her parents, Lyle and Ruth Niswander, and her brother David. Dona graduated from Luther College in 1968 and married classmate John Willemsen in the same year. They raised their three children at their home in Elkhart, IA. As a mother, Dona left an indelible mark on her children with her creativity, love and humor.

The family enjoyed many adventures together, most especially annual trips to Northern Minnesota and later on the beautiful beaches in Culebra, Puerto Rico. A shared dream to own a cabin in Northern Minnesota brought Dona and John to International Falls, Minn., in 2004.

Creating lasting memories was important to Dona. She devoted her heart and soul to bringing her family together. Dona also cherished her friendships with old friends and new.

Her greatest and most enduring accomplishment will be the love she passed along to her children and grandchildren. Dona is preceded in death by her parents, Lyle and Ruth Niswander. She is survived by her husband of 52 years, John Willemsen of International Falls, Minn.; her son Pete Willemsen of Duluth, Minn., and wife Renee; her son Matt Willemsen of Mankato, Minn., and wife Renee; and her daughter Emily Triantaphyllis of Houston, TX and husband Christian; eight grandchildren: Max, Colin, Ella, Hannah, August, Vivian, Johnny, and Frances; and brother David Niswander of Des Moines, IA and wife Becky Sue Johnson.

A gathering to celebrate Dona’s life is planned for a later date in Des Moines and International Falls.

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