I did not have the pleasure of knowing your loved one personally. I saw this obituary in the paper. I am well acquainted with the sorrow death brings and hoped the family might be comforted by these encouraging words from the bible: “And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither outcry nor pain be any more, the former things have passed away.” (Re. 21: 4, 5) You have my deepest condolences.
Unlike many of you, we at ACCO Brands knew Colleen for a very short time. But she touched our lives just as deeply.
We’ve spent a lot of time over the past week, reminiscing about Colleen and the one constant theme that has emerged is that Colleen was a leader who “CARED”.
She cared about her family and friends, especially, Gary, Rachel, Dante and Kelly.
She cared about her colleagues and clients.
And she cared about her work. She cared that it was high quality work that made a difference for her clients and the company. She was a very talented lawyer who had that special “something” it takes to be successful in-house.
As a colleague and counselor, Colleen was always patient and pragmatic, yet persistent. She had that unique ability to quietly, but firmly guide those around her to the right outcome.
As a result of all these great qualities, Colleen built very strong personal relationships with the people she worked with.
We knew all these things about Colleen when she became sick late last year, but we also know that she lived alone. At the time, I remember being very concerned how she was going to manage through what I knew would be a very difficult time. But as the weeks and months passed, I quickly realized that Colleen had touched so many other people in her life in the same way she had touched us and that, as a result, she had a wonderful network of family and friends to support her though the battle.
And support her we all did, but what I will remember most is that, to the end, Colleen was still leading us. That same caring, patient, pragmatic, but persistent women was reaching out with reports on her condition, sometimes encouraging, but often not, in a way that made it easy to engage and support her. In every conversation or encounter, she was making it easy for you to make a connection with her.
Colleen was a very special person, an invaluable colleague and a friend. We will miss her greatly.
Colleen was the first person I met as a Freshman at St. Joan Antida High School in 1976 when we were both about 14 yrs old! She sat in front of me during our homeroom period and we had many classes together. She was so intelligent and dedicated and never missed a day of school! She was the smartest friend I ever had, becoming Val Victorian of our class all four years of high school! Although she was super smart and got straight As, she was very humble. She was patient and kind and went out of her way to help her friends, like me, succeed. She always said she had to study a lot and work hard to maintain her grades, but to me, everything educational seemed to come easy for her! She had a true desire to seek out experiences that would challenge her brain; excelling at everything she put her mind to. Having a great career was in her destiny! From stay-at-home mom, to CFO, to Corporate Attorney, Colleen was on a quest for knowledge, had a passion for applying her skills, loved learning from her experiences, and managed to help other people find success along the way. She loved her family, her friends, and had an uncanny love of life no matter the situation! She was super smart, successful, loving, kind, generous, and full of positive energy. Aside from loving her family, I believe what Colleen enjoyed most in life was talking to people, learning new things, and helping others. Because I’ve lived in Colorado for over 30 years, we didn’t see each other often, but when we did, we fell into our long-standing friendship without missing a beat. I will hold our high school days, our trip to Jamaica, her visit to Colorado, and of course, our get together last summer at Okauchee Lake among my most treasured memories of Colleen. She was a very special person and I am so thankful to have known her. Her life was complete and full, but of course, too short-lived. I will miss my friend dearly. To her son, Gary (who I held in my arms as an infant), and her sisters, Shawn, Kelly, and Carrie (and each respective family), I express my most sincere sympathy for your loss.
Colleen Doan was remarkable in her ability to accept what life presented, and then to make something extraordinary from it.
She came to Merge Technologies as a soon to be single mother who needed a steady income to build a life for Gary and herself. The second day on the job, I gathered the small group of engineers and Colleen together and told them that there was no money currently available for payroll. Later she told me that she was astounded that everyone said, “Thanks for letting us know” and went back to work. She did also, and stayed for 14 years.
She soon saw that her role could expand, but that she would have to grow along with it. She proposed a policy of tuition reimbursement, then finished her undergraduate degree in accounting and business at Alverno, and grew to become a public company CFO.
While “going public”, she was required to get life insurance, which meant she had to get an extensive physical exam. She protested that she did not react well to the sight of blood, but I insisted that it would be fine, and that the exam would take place in one of the conference rooms. As the examiner prepared to draw blood, she fainted and fell out of her chair on to the floor. The examiner rushed outside the conference room, and shouted “Call 911!” but it was really not necessary as Colleen soon woke up, got composed, and finished the exam.
Also during the IPO, she worked with a lot of attorneys, and started thinking, “I could do that better than they can,” so after 4 years as a public company CFO, she decided to take her Merge winnings, move to Chicago, buy a condo, and go to Northwestern Law School. How proud she was walk across the stage in 2005 to get her JD.
As a graduate nearly twice the age of the others, it seemed like it would be a challenge to be hired by a law firm, but that didn’t deter Colleen. She landed a spot with one of the largest firms in the country, Latham and Watkins, and was a valued contributor for 10 years.
She eventually decided to go back into the corporate world, joined a major Chicago corporation, moved to the Chicago suburbs, and dug into her new roles as corporate lawyer and grandmother to Gary’s son Dante.
Not long ago, Colleen faced the ultimate challenge. The threat of cancer had been with her for so long, as she had earlier watched Aunts and her Mother succumb at early ages. Colleen watched for it carefully, but 4 short months ago, it caught up with her. She valiantly fought the disease, but could not escape its ravages. So she decided to make the best of it, come back to Milwaukee where family and friends could gather, and reminisce with about a life well lived, and challenges more than just met, by a remarkable, strong and courageous woman, Colleen Doan.
Lisa Mc Namer
Powerfully sorry to hear of Colleen’s passing. We went to SJA High School together. Incredibly nice, effortlessly smart, quiet, nerdy, kind above all others … this is how I remember Colleen.
My dear friend Colleen, such a warrior, such a strong woman, and a trusted and loyal friend. I am honored that Don, Jill, Audrey and I were your “Chicago family” for so many years. I am glad I got to visit you a couple of weeks ago. I will miss you forever.
Gary and family, sorry I’m still in Brazil and will miss the funeral.
Kathy Larsen Kasper
I am so sorry fir your loss of a wonderful sister, mother, grandmother and aunt. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. I remember when Colleen came up to the cabin for some quiet time before she started law school and I thought she was so brave to be reaching for a new goal.. I also remember one time when all of the sisters were in Chetek and Colleen reinacted a pose in black and white film of everyone in the same exact position as they were when they were little. That was so special of her to recreate a past memory of everyone. Kathy Larsen Kasper
Colleen will be missed. We had many great times in High School..Her dad would always take us to and from school and sporting events. Our birthdays were close so we frequently celebrated them together. We worked together briefly at Wisconsin Marine Bank 1980-1981 and she stood up in my wedding in July 1981. I will never forget her!