All who knew Donna Mlinar would agree that she was one of the most thoughtful, caring, and generous people around. Whether it was her family, her friends, or someone she met while out and about, she was genuine and loving in every way. Donna was blessed to share the majority of her days with the love of her life, and together they witnessed their family tree blossom to include numerous branches of loved ones who were her greatest source of pride and joy. Through the way she lived her life, she instilled great wisdom into her children and grandchildren with the lessons she taught being rooted in thinking of others first and foremost. Donna welcomed everyone with open arms, and there was never a time that someone left her home with an empty stomach or void of a small token of love. Always wanting to share “one more thing,” Donna hated goodbyes and looked forward to seeing her loved ones as often as she could. Truly beautiful on the inside and out, she will be forever missed.
The 1930s were defined by the Great Depression that held our nation and much of the world firmly in its grip throughout the entire decade. Although the unemployment rate soared leaving countless Americans struggling to make ends meet, cities, communities, and families came together to whether the storm however they could. Despite the challenges around them, Frank and Marie Josephine (Murphy) Talaber were able to shift their focus to a joyous time in their own lives as they announced the birth of the heathy baby girl they named Donna Mae on May 15, 1938. She was the younger of two girls raised in the family on the South side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in what is now the Walker’s Point area. She and her older sister, Doris, attended St. Patrick’s Grade School, and Donna later went on to Mercy High School where she played volleyball. She graduated in 1956.
New and exciting changes were in store for Donna when she met the love of her life, although it was in a rather unusual way as she was out on a date with a different young man when she spotted Thomas Mlinar at the tavern they stopped at. Her heart skipped a beat upon seeing Tom, and it was love at first sight. They began dating soon after, and it wasn’t long before they were deeply in love. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together Donna and Tom were married on October 20, 1956, at St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church on 3rd and National.
The newlyweds settled into a home in St. Francis, and Donna worked for Northwestern Mutual Insurance Company while Tom worked for Wisconsin Electrical. Together they welcomed three children including Mike, Christine, and Timothy into their hearts and home. Once children arrived, Donna left the workforce to focus her attention on being a wife, mother, and homemaker. As someone who was naturally loving, caring, and compassionate, she excelled at being a mother. Donna was there for whatever her children needed, and her own needs always came last. As a family they enjoyed being together with some of their favorite memories being made camping in various states as well as in Northern Wisconsin. Donna consistently reminded her children to think of others first and to make sure their priorities were in the right place, and it was while keeping their priorities in check that decisions were to be made. She loved cooking for her family, and Donna also welcomed her children’s friends into her home whether for a meal or just for a visit. When her children grew older and married, she welcomed their spouses into the family with open arms, and there was nothing better than becoming a grandmother according to Donna.
As her family continued to grow, Donna was the heartbeat of her loved ones. Holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter were all so special because of her, and she always went over and above. In February of 1996, Donna and her family were given a tough pill to swallow with the death of Christine at the young age of 34. It was because they were deeply rooted in the love they had for one another that Donna and her family faced the days, weeks, and months following Christine’s death. It has been said that Donna’s passion was shopping, and when she said she was going shopping the family usually didn’t expect her to return for hours. Whether she was shopping for the family for Christmas or birthdays, it was Donna’s greatest joy. Rummage sales were another favorite, and she got all of the females in the family started on another one of her favorite pastimes, coin collecting. It was commonplace for her grandchildren to come along with her when she went out shopping to both stores and rummage sales. If not in person, Donna loved keeping up with her family on the phone. Her loved ones knew that when it came to saying goodbye, she loved lingering, often saying, “one more thing” about something just to avoid having to say goodbye. If shopping with Donna it was also normal for her to leave the checkout lane to grab just “One more thing.”
A woman of many interests, Donna was one to keep busy. One of her greatest joys was making a home that was welcoming and pleasing to both herself and others. Her house always smelled amazing whether it was because of the freshly picked flowers, incense, or air fresheners. Donna also liked her bonsai plaits and flowers. When relaxing she could often be found reading as she enjoyed everything from Agatha Christie books to the cartoon strip, “Pickles.” Donna also stayed up on the news and was forever on the lookout for articles on things like exercise, healthy eating, or nutrition in addition to advice she thought would be helpful as she frequently shared things she cut out or highlighted with her family. She additionally enjoyed watching Law and Order on television. Because Tom was involved with the American Legion Post #27, Donna was a member of their ladies auxiliary.
Just this past October Donna and her loved ones were faced with the reality of her lung cancer diagnosis. Wanting to enjoy the holiday season, she delayed treatment until having surgery to remove her lung in January. Although her heart and spirit were willing, the fight toward recovery was too much for Donna’s body to overcome.
Truly beautiful on the inside and out, Donna Mlinar was such a blessing to everyone she met. The rock of her family, she was steadfast, unwavering in her strength, and always there for her loved ones in ways both great and small. Selfless, Donna lived to nurture and care for her husband, children, and grandchildren, and it was easy to see that her family was her greatest source of pride and joy. Although she was taken from her loved ones too soon, the memories she leaves behind will never be forgotten.
Donna M. Mlinar died on February 21, 2015. Donna’s family includes her husband, Thomas Mlinar; children, Michael (Jill) Mlinar, Timothy (Kelly) Mlinar, and the late Christine (Mark) Burkhard; grandchildren, Nathaniel (Erin) Burkhard, Kimberly (Marc) Tranum, Samantha, Christine, Jon, Sara, and Ben Mlinar; sister, Doris Talaber; and other relatives and friends. Family and friends will gather Thursday, February 26 at Parkway Apostolic Church, 10940 S. Nicholson Rd. from 6:00 p.m. until time of Memorial Service at 7:00 p.m. Arrangements provided by Suminski LifeStory Funeral Homes, Niemann / Suminski (414) 744-5156, www.SuminskiFuneralHome.com.
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