Donna Marie Giese


July 7, 1917 - October 4, 2014



Donna Marie Giese was born July 7, 1917 in Sioux Falls, the second of Otto and Leo (Florance) Wellenstein’s six children.  ​She was a straight-A student through graduation from Washington High in 1935, but the Great Depression and the sudden death of her father prevented her from going to college.  While working at a downtown flower shop, Donna became acquainted with Roy Giese, the young manager of the nearby Egyptian Theater.  Roy was a regular customer, picking up flowers for the theater box office.  They married in August 13, 1940, spent their honeymoon in Yellowstone, WY, and celebrated 53 years of marriage before Roy's death in 1993.​

Donna was a person of keen intelligence and broad interests.  She was a self-educated  life-long learner. She remained deeply curious about the world around her and was an avid reader well into her nineties. She always preferred nonfiction, especially history, to novels. Dementia in her final years robbed her of books but did not keep her from reading the paper every day.

Her talents were as wide ranging as her interests. Intricately patterned quilts were a specialty; she left dozens to charm her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren long into the future. Original cross-stitch art grew out of line drawings which she made with either hand: she was ambidextrous. She was an accomplished seamstress who brought drawers of Vogue patterns to life, not to mention cowgirl outfits and Superman capes made for her children and their friends. She was a charter member of the Mitchell Chapter of the Embroiderers Guild of America.

She dazzled her grandchildren with ​​chains of cut-out paper dolls and art made from piles of antique costume jewelry. She and her friends frequented auctions, buying and then sharing their furniture back and forth for decades.  Her easy laugh was infectious, her smile a picture.  ​​Her children remember April Fools Days when they couldn't pick up the fork (because a thread held it to the placemat) or cut a pancake (because a piece of cheesecloth had been cooked into it).  She delighted in conversation: a new father commented that "she was so interested you'd have thought she never knew anybody else who had a baby."

​She had always been such an exceptional baker that her family never knew she really didn't like to cook until she stopped completely in 1993 and began stacking books on the stove. An in-law remarked that watching her make an apple pie was "watching art." 

She rode a bicycle long before women cyclists were cool.  She loved to tell stories about the Ozark bike trip she and a dear friend took when they were already "white-haired, old ladies."  She finally gave up the streets in her seventies and restricted herself to a stationary bike.

Donna was a devout life-long Catholic and a devoted parishioner at Holy Family for nearly seventy-five years. Her charity was the quiet kind, and she declined public recognition even when it was offered.

Donna is survived by her son, Michael (Ann) Giese, Greenville SC; her daughter, Molly McGinty, Rapid City SD; two brothers:  Toby Wellenstein, Sioux Falls SD and Forrest (Irene) Wellenstein, Hiawassee AR; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.  She was preceded in death by her husband, Roy, son-in-law, Frank McGinty, sisters:  Delores Klawiter and Betty Ramsay and her brother, Jack Wellenstein.



Thursday, October 9, 2014
9:30 AM - 10:30 AM
Holy Family Catholic Church
222 North Kimball Street
Mitchell, South Dakota


Thursday, October 9, 2014
10:30 AM
Holy Family Catholic Church
222 North Kimball Street
Mitchell, South Dakota


American Legion Cemetery
Mitchell, South Dakota

Posted by Anne Kettenbeil on March 28, 2015
Molly, Sorry to hear of your Mother's passing. Her obituary brought back memories of your accounts of her and of Mitchell SD. Do get in touch if the spirit moves you to do so. Anne
Posted by Leslie Hoffman on November 22, 2014
I remember visiting with Donna several times. My first memory of Donna when when I was quite little, and we went to the corn palace. I remember sharing a meal with her where she sat by me and asked me some questions and was very interested in my answers. At that time and the other times we visited I felt like when she spoke with me and asked me questions that I was the only one in the room. Also, few grown ups listen so attentively to children's thoughts and observations. I saw her deep love for my mother and I often felt that she thought my mother was very clever to be raising us on such a big adventure ( moving around so much). She was always warm, attentive, and had a big smile. I am saddened at her passing.
Posted by Gretchen Warner on October 12, 2014
Dear Molly, Mike, Ann and families, I will really miss Aunt Donna. We had so many good talks on the phone in her later years. She was smart and funny. Of course, we visited Mitchell so many times when Susie and I were children. South Dakotans living in New Jersey, our car turned toward the midwest in the summer on the way to Mitchel;, stopping of course in Wisconsin. Donna knew so much about history, Breton faience, Native American basketry, and so much else. I think the women of South Dakota were amazingly knowledgable about so many things. I loved that she was so active in the Friends of the Middle Border and I still have the book they published. Of course, I knew Donna in the early 40's wehn she and Alice were first buddies in Mitchell. They were good looking young women. Of course I remember Uncle Roy from my early childhood. He always was our mom's "baby brother" and he was always so nice to me. My regards to Donna's brother, as well. I wish I had been with you to celebrate your mother's life. I celebrate your father' life, too. Their lives were well lived. Much love, Gretchen
Posted by Doug Lilibridge on October 8, 2014
Mike and Molly, I was fortunate enough to meet Donna 10 years ago. My brother in law Dennis Heck brought her from Wesley Acres to his brother Mark's house for dinner during our visit to Mitchell for Al and Tootie Heck's 60th wedding anniversary. From the moment I met Donna I knew she was special. She and I talked that first night for hours. After that I would write her and she would call and we would talk. I was able to visit her on those occasions when we traveled to Mitchell for various reasons. I took her shopping for slippers and out for ice cream and we would visit like old friends. I remember her the way she was then at 87 and she was far sharper than many I know and infinitely more interesting. Donna was certainly a unique person. She shared some of her stories with me about April fools day as you talked about here. I am happy to have known her. I will always remember her and the world is a lesser place for our loss. God bless.
Posted by Diane Koltes Henebry on October 8, 2014
Molly and Mike, Your Mom was a special lady and one of the nicest people I knew growing up in Mitchell. Always smiling, so chipper, and a joy to be around. She walked with a bounce in her step. Now she can dance and carry on with Dixie and Agnes and Cec and the rest of the crew. My condolences to you and your family.
Posted by BILL & CINDY DESY on October 8, 2014
So sorry to hear of your Mothers passing. I will tell you when my Mother was having her ordeal with cancer you Mother was such a wonderful person. She always had a smile as wide as the room, and always had something wonderful and positive to say. I missed her when she left Brady. I spent 6 months there off and on with my sibblings so I saw her everyday she was there. She ate at my Mother table(Lois McDaniel). Just remember the memories are worth a million dollars. They will stay with you a lifetime. Wonderful lady. Cindy Desy
Posted by Pat Helgeland on October 7, 2014
Molly, I remember coming to your home as a classmate and your Mom's smile. On visits back to Mitchell, I would see her once in awhile and we would visit. Please know you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
Posted by Richard Bauerle on October 6, 2014
I'm so sorry to hear of your mothers passing. I waited on her for many years at I-90, then later the Depot. Her and Marty were some of my favorite customers over the years and I have many fond memories of both of them. She was one of the wisest women I've ever met and I enjoyed every minute of her company. My sympathies to your family.
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