Donna Jean Danna loved being around kids – her own kids and their friends, neighborhood kids, the kids she taught as a kindergarten assistant at St. Rose of Lima Catholic School and eventually her grandkids.
Even in her mid-50s, Danna and her husband took in an infant relative and treated her as their own kid. Kailey was 2 months old when the Dannas began caring for her, and she’ll turn 12 years old on Saturday.
“She loved children. Everybody called her the baby whisperer,” said her oldest daughter, Monica Danna. “Kids loved her. She was very fun.”
Donna Danna, a motherly figure to countless kids while her eldest children were growing up in the Forest Pines and Mangum Manor subdivisions, died Aug. 27 of an apparent heart attack. She was 66.
Danna is survived by her three children and four grandchildren as well as her husband of 48 years, Joe Danna, the Republican candidate for Harris County Sheriff. He will face Democratic incumbent Ed Gonzalez in November’s general election.
“As my daughters and I attempt to move forward in this world without Donna, we thank God for the gift of her life and love,” Joe Danna said in a statement released by his campaign. “We are experiencing profound grief and heartbreak, and will continue to do so for some time. There was no one like Donna. She was the love of my life and my biggest supporter.”
The Dannas were married at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in 1972 and spent the next few decades as area residents, with their two oldest daughters, Monica and Jill, graduating from Scarborough High School. Monica is the director of leasing and marketing for Revive Development, a prominent commercial real estate firm in the Heights, Garden Oaks and Oak Forest area.
Monica described her mother, who grew up in Pasadena and was known as D.D. among her friends and grandkids, as irreverent and selfless. Monica said Donna left her back gate open so neighbors could swim in her pool and was known to invite the family’s landscaper inside for lunch.
Donna enjoyed taking care of others and tending to her garden, and she took annual vacations with a group of mothers she befriended while teaching at St. Rose.
Donna also started the first after-school program at St. Ambrose when her oldest daughters attended there in the mid-1980s, according to Monica. Kailey is now a seventh-grader at St. Ambrose, where the family has set up a scholarship fund in Donna’s honor.
Monica said the Donna Danna Student Scholarship Fund will provide a partial scholarship every year to a St. Ambrose student in need. In lieu of food and flowers, the family asks that donations be made online at www.donnadannastudentfund.org or directly to St. Ambrose.
“We’re obviously grateful for the 66 years that she was here and the time she was with us,” Monica said. “It’s devastating. Mom was everyone’s most favorite person.”
Monica said the family is planning a private liturgy service and also intends to hold a celebration of life event, where friends and extended family will be welcome, at some point later this year.