Donna Lou Martin

Donna Lou Martin was a woman who made life happen.

image of Donna Lou Martin

Donna Lou Martin

She was

  •  A planner and adventurer,
  • Competitive and quick-witted,
  • Generous and sentimental,
  • A talented and engaging teacher,
  •  A voracious reader and accomplished author,
  • A faithful & engaging correspondent,
  • Unconventional, opinionated and memorable,
  • Never, ever dull.


Born in Kansas City Missouri to Leonard and Athene Wilkins, Donna Lou’s childhood years were spent in the small town of Harrisonville, Missouri, where she attended school in a one-room schoolhouse and grew up in the company of beloved cousins, aunts and uncles.

At a time when women were expected to graduate with an “MRS” degree, Donna Lou studied Engineering and eventually completed a Physics degree. During her college years at University of Missouri, she met and married Bob Martin, and by the tender age of 23, she had two children and had already lived abroad in Japan as a young Navy wife.

Donna Lou was a working mother in an era when doing so was very much outside the norm. She was a creative and engaging junior high and high school Math teacher as evidenced by many long friendships she sustained with former students.

While working fulltime, Donna Lou raised her daughters Laura & Amy, and welcomed her younger teenage sister Lucy into the household.  She formed abiding friendships with neighbors, first in north Seattle while Bob was in dental school, and then in Issaquah, where she left teaching to manage her husband’s dental practice.

Donna Lou was a fabulous cook who could turn out gourmet meals from a camp stove or a tiny boat galley. Her family and friends enjoyed many of these while camping and at the family cabin on Orcas Island.

An incredible planner with an adventurous spirit, Donna Lou launched a mid-life sailing adventure with her husband Bob, forgoing a land-based home to live aboard a 36’ sailboat “Moonrise” in the Bahamas.  While sharing their life with many friends and family who visited during these years, she also published multiple magazine articles about living aboard and a book, Mary Morrison, The Story of a Scottish Immigrant. After “retiring from retirement”, she obtained a Masters in Mathematics and taught calculus at the University of Florida.

Donna Lou and Bob spent more years living in Florida, where they continued to be avid boaters and enjoyed traveling in Europe before Bob passed away in 2011.  Her second marriage to David Panzl brought love, passion, and more world travels later in life.

In her final years, Donna Lou accepted her health limitations with grace and contentment.  Her daughters relished the many happy hours the three of them spent video-chatting together about sweet memories and new experiences.  At the end, Donna Lou and David moved to Seattle to spend her last months in the loving care of her daughters and sister and their families.

Donna Lou was preceded in death by her first husband Bob Martin, her parents Leonard and Athene Wilkins, and her older sister Marylen Melgaard.  She was survived by her husband David Panzl, younger sister Lucy Jarvis, daughters Laura Martin (David Purcell) and Amy Hansen (Geir Hansen) and her grandchildren Kathryn Helen and Leo Purcell, and Ellen and Anna Hansen.

Her memorial service will be held at 1:00 pm Saturday January 18, 2020 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Seattle WA.

4 Responses to “Donna Lou Martin”

  • Laura Martin says:

    You’ll appreciate knowing that (of course!) Donna Lou enjoyed working on her obituary with Amy and me earlier this year. If you are interested in attending or would like more info about her service or the reception afterwards on Sat Jan 18, please let me know at ~ Laura

  • Stevie Stairs says:

    I’m sorry to have heard of Donna Lou’s passing. I remember that she was mentioned so many times by my mother, Carman Keene and Aunt, Bobbie King. She made a deep impression in so many people’s lives ❤️

  • Twila (Cox) Bartlow says:

    Of course a wonderfully written piece! So great to get to hear her story, one she was was involved in writing.
    Thanks and sending love!

  • Denise & JR Robert says:

    Laura, Thank you for sharing this wonderful recap of your mom’s life. She sounds like a very interesting person! Sorry I didn’t get the chance to meet her. Hugs to your family. ❤️

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