Donner family overcomes adversities triumphantly

Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Three generations of golfing Donners. From left -- Johnnie Donner; his son, Dana and Dana's son Michael. (Town Crier Photo/Dan Hewitt)

LEACHVILLE As the old saying goes, "the family that prays together, stays together." You can also say, "the family that plays together stays together." Such is the case for the Donner family of Leachville. Despite health problems that include heart bypass surgery and a diagnosis of cancer with ongoing chemotherapy treatments, the family has stayed together, emotionally and physically, and most recently had unexpected success at the annual Father/Son golf tournament at Big Lake Country Club in Manila.

Johnnie Donner, 75, and his son Dana, won their 14th Father/Son tournament this past weekend less than a year after Johnnie was diagnosed with cancer.

"We didn't know if he would be well enough to play," Dana said. "He has been taking chemotherapy treatments and they exhaust him."

Johnnie and Dana have been playing in the annual tournament together since 1974.

"Johnnie didn't want to miss this event," Dana added. "It was his desire to play that motivated him."

Johnnie has also previously undergone heart bypass surgery.

"When he first started getting sick last year, he though it was complications from the surgery, but it was then that he was diagnosed with the cancer," Dana went on to say.

Johnnie now has chemotherapy treatments once per week in Jonesboro, which, Dana says, leaves him exhausted for two days.

"He's usually out of commission for about 48 hours after each treatment. They take a lot out of him."

The Father/Son tournament was the first time Johnnie had stepped onto a golf course since his diagnosis. The win was special to the duo not only because Johnnie was able to participate, but winning their 14th was an event in itself.

"We've been stuck at 13 for awhile and that wasn't a number we wanted to be at," Dana said.

Dana also participated in the event with his 12 year old son, Michael. Dana and Michael finished third in the tournament.

Dana, a caddy for Tony Peterson on the Senior PGA Tour, said he hopes to see his son continue playing golf.

"Nintendo is his priority right now," Dana laughed. "But next year he'll be getting bigger and I believe he'll be taking a greater interest in the game."

Johnnie, a die-hard St. Louis Cardinal fan doesn't get out to mow the grass twice weekly anymore, but still won't miss a tv or radio broadcast of any redbird game.

"He'll stay up until 3 a.m. if the Cards are playing on the west coast," Dana said. "He won't miss a game. As far as cutting his grass, I've inherited that responsibility. I have to do it twice a week with a push mower. It's has to be done his way," he joked.

He added, "What Johnnie has gone through was bad, but as a family we made it. It wasn't easy, but we made it. Now we are just thankful for the times we have together. You just never know what's going to happen."

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