Dona Ahern


image of Dona Ahern

Dona Ahern

Dona Jane (Donaldson) Ahern of Seattle passed away peacefully on February 4, 2024 of congestive heart failure, surrounded by the love of her family. She was 90 years old.

Dona was born in Seattle on March 9, 1933, to Cora and Paul Donaldson. She grew up on Capitol Hill with her older brother Donald and attended St. Patrick’s Elementary School, Holy Names Academy and Seattle University, where she obtained a B.A and later her master’s degree. She met her husband, Frank Ahern, teaching Sunday school at St. Patrick’s in 1957. They married in 1958 and had their first child in 1959, followed quickly by five more children by 1965. When asked how she managed to raise six children while her husband was busy teaching and coaching, her response was, ”I don’t remember, it was all a blur”. But we remember, she was simply the best mom, and later grandma, that any of us could ever have imagined.

A woman of many talents, she was beautiful inside and out. Her smile was radiant and her laugh was contagious. She cultivated her family and friendships like she cultivated her gardens, and she always had abundant gardens. An excellent listener, she had a special way of making people feel that their stories were important to her, and they were! She would be as interested in hearing about your day as learning about what you had done on vacation. A lifelong Catholic and fervent believer in social justice, Mom lived her faith every day through her actions and kindness.

She loved a gathering, whether it was a family event or a wedding shower for a friend’s child, and she was often the hostess. Although she was a skilled cook and baker, we did not always recognize how lucky we were and instead envied the kids who were fed TV dinners. We later grew to appreciate her culinary prowess and marvel at how she was able to feed all who appeared at the dinner table. Dad always knew, however, and would exclaim “Dona, another masterpiece out of the oven!” after every meal. It did not take as long for the grandchildren to recognize her pie-baking, applesauce-making and cookie-creating talents.

An adventurous spirit, she was always up for anything, from visiting museums and attending plays to watching (many) of her husband’s, children’s and grandchildren’s sporting events. When she was 40, she summited Mt. Rainier. When you called her up and asked her to do something with you and/or your children, she was invariably and enthusiastically ready to go.

Mom loved being outdoors, whether it was walking through a forest, her daily dog walks or working in her garden. Beautiful sunrises delighted her. She also thought it was important for children to go outside every day so we did. We would often climb in the van with her and off we would go.

A lifelong learner, she obtained her master’s degree while she was raising six children. She was an avid reader and voracious consumer of National Public Radio, which was usually playing in the background of her kitchen. She was a curious person who enjoyed learning new things and delighted in relaying her newfound knowledge to all. If she came to your house for dinner on Sunday, you knew that dessert had to be served in time for her to get home to watch Masterpiece Theatre.

Mom was an environmentalist years before it was encouraged. A worm bin in the backyard created compost for her garden. The comics section of the newspaper was used as wrapping paper. She would reuse or recycle whatever she could think of. She adopted a messy street near her home and was delighted when someone would comment on its cleanliness after she had picked it up. She brewed homemade kombucha years before anyone knew what it was. She even taught one of her dogs to pick up aluminum cans on their walks!

Mom also had an artistic streak, she could sketch, paint and tried her hand at some mosaics. One of her absolute favorite things was to get us to perform plays or exhibit other theatrical/musical talent (of which we had very little) on Christmas. She would divide her children and grandchildren into teams so that we would have peer pressure to participate. Hilarity always ensued.

Mom and Dad were married for 55 years before his passing in 2013. He always told us that he “won the wife lottery” and he was not wrong. Dona is survived by her six children: Theresa Ahern (John Greaney), Rosemary Leifer (Randy), Jeanne Sommerville (Tad), Paul Ahern (Regina), Ruth Caple (Phil) and Mary Thompson (Lincoln). She adored and was adored by her 16 grandchildren: Gayle (Brian), Katie, Ian (Kristal), Blake, Nolan, Connor (Mande), Joe, Allyson, Evan, Blaine, Hannah, Rachel, Toby, Cole, Emma and Kellie and three great grandchildren: Rylan, Lydia and newly arrived Grant. We all miss her terribly, but are comforted by the fact that she had a long and wonderful life.

Her funeral will be held on March 9 (her 91st birthday) at St. Paul’s Church in Seattle at 10:30 a.m. A rosary will be held at the same venue on March 8 at 7 p.m. Our Mom had many favorite charities, one in particular was St. Francis House in Seattle. We know she would appreciate a donation to any charity of your choice.

4 Responses to “Dona Ahern”

  • Carole Hogan says:

    Such a beautiful obituary and an appropriate tribute to you wonderful Mom.
    Sending lots of love and prayers,
    Carole and Gary Hogan

  • Heidi Bruch says:

    Dona was treasured member of the Fr. Joseph Vogel Circle at Advocacy and Caring for Children. We hold a Memorial Mass in November for all of our members whom have passed. We invite you to join us, as Dona will be honored at that time. You can also find her memorial posted on our website:

    We pray that time & memories bring peace to your hearts.

  • Kathleen Doyle Williams (Katie) says:

    I so fondly remember Dona (Mrs. Ahern!) from St. Paul’s Parish – my Mom and Dad (Katie & Ed Doyle) were as involved as Dona and Frank in those early parish days back when Fr. Vogel as pastor, then Fr. Heffernen and forward. Mrs. Ahern was one of the nicest adults I’d ever met and treated all of us St. Paul’s kids with love and her beautiful smile + she was Fun! She and my Mom both were involved w/St. Francis House. The last time I saw her was at my Dad Ed’s 90th Birthday celebration June, 2011 when she came w/Frank to Our Lady of the Lake parish hall for the celebration. She was just as beautiful, as lovely as always and still had that Million Dollar smile! What an inspiration she is/was to a life well led, and a blessing to anyone who’s path she crossed. She’ll always be in our hearts and I’ll bet my folks were there to greet her when she danced into Heaven! Love to your extended Ahern Family – Katie xoxo

  • Alison Gates says:

    The first time I met Dona, she made me and Ruth toasted cheese. We were in college. It was a great toasted cheese, and better because we needed to be taken care of in that moment! I remember her with a little bit of awe, and my heart goes out to all of you. True story, I think of her everytime I make myself a toasted cheese.

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