Harvey Mark Donner


image of Harvey Mark Donner

Harvey Mark Donner

From the snowy day he was born on December 4, 1932 in Chico, California, until the day he died on March 4, 2017 in Bellevue, Washington, Mark Donner was always known as a good storyteller. Mark, as he was always called, was the eldest son of Harvey Lewis Donner and Lela (Triplett) Donner.

Mark grew up on the family farm, where his father grew prize-winning watermelons. A few years later, along came his younger brother, Donald, and sister, Kathleen. 

While growing up, and into his adulthood, Mark loved the outdoors, and spent many days hunting and fishing with his father, brother, and friends.

Mark loved people and he always had a smile that seemed like it was just for you. He was from a long line of gifted storytellers, and loved sharing a good story with family and friends.

Mark was the first person in the Donner family to attend college. In 1951, he started as a freshman at Chico State. In his sophomore year, he left college to join the U.S. Army where he was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington state. He served for three years in the Infantry at Fort Lewis where he quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant.

When his tour was up, he returned to his hometown of Chico. He decided not to return to college, but instead, took an opportunity with his cousin, Johnny Malmquist, to do carpentry work. Little did he know that carpentry would be the craft he would work on for the rest of his life, including 50 years with the Carpenters Union in the Seattle area.

The years started to pass and all of Mark’s friends were getting married but Mark was still a bachelor. He raced hard-top cars at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, ate grasshoppers when dared, played in bar league softball games, and of course, kept on hunting and fishing with his family and friends.

As fate would have it, Mark was visiting old friends, the Flores family, when his father’s delivery truck lost a load of melons on Highway 32 not far from the Flores’ house. The whole Flores family headed out, including their daughter Charlene, to help out. Riding back to the house in the back of the pickup truck after cleaning up the mess, Charlene leaned against Mark and she liked how his arms felt around her. Mark said that on the ride home, he felt something in his heart and he was never the same. It was the beginning of more than 50 years of love and marriage.

On July 17, 1964, Mark and Charlene were married at the Flores family home in Chico,

Mark and Charlene Donner wedding July 17, 1964 in Chico, California.

California. The best man at the wedding was Mark’s favorite dog of all time, Bernardie.

The next spring, their family grew with the birth of their son, Marcus. But Chico was a small town and there was only so much work. In 1967, Mark’s cousin, Bob Donner, was working in carpentry in the Seattle area and he encouraged Mark to come up. So the family moved to Bellevue, Washington, and that summer, their daughter, Cindy, was born. The family continued to grow when in 1973, their daughter, Christy, was born. Mark continued carpentry work, so much so that you can’t drive anywhere in King County and not drive by some home, school, or building that he worked on.

Starting out, there were just a few extended family members in Washington, but around the dining table, or at the 4th of July barbecues, or at the annual croquet tournaments, there was always room for one more. Around that table, friends became family. Mark’s toasts at those gatherings became legendary stories, so much so that over time, everyone looked forward to them.

Mark loved having his family around him and the only thing that could make that better was seeing the family grow. And it did. Their daughter Christy had a son, Logan, and Mark and Charlene became Pops and Grammy. Not long after, the family grew again when Marcus married Peg.

As Pops, Mark became perhaps the best version of himself. Pops and Logan were like two peas in a pod. They were always up for a project, building ships from recycled cardboard, planting seeds, making up games, telling a story, or best of all, having ice cream and cookies together.

Mark’s family and friends remembered the love and stories they shared during his 84 years at a memorial service that was held in Bellevue on March 17, 2017. In the outdoors he loved, with Mount Rainier in the distance, he was interred with military honors at Tahoma National Cemetery.

Mark is survived by his wife of 53 years, Charlene Donner; his son, Marcus Donner, and daughter-in-law Peg Cheng; his daughter, Cindy Donner; his daughter, Christy Rainchild, and grandson, Logan; and all the family and friends that ever sat at his dining table.

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