Donna Kay (Bialeschki) Rich, 66, passed away in her home on Wednesday surrounded by family and her beloved dog, Desi.
A lifelong resident of Tolono, Donna Kay was a small town woman whose heart was as big as her dimples.
She was a fiercely independent woman of many talents, as comfortable with a hammer and a fishing pole as she was with a rolling pin and crochet hook.
Above all else, Donna was a one-of-a-kind mother. Being a mom was her ultimate aspiration, and that role extended well beyond her own children.
She mothered everyone she loved – her children, of course - but also their friends, her nieces and nephews, co-workers, classmates, siblings, friends, and animals. Her home and kitchen were open to anyone who needed a place to crash, a home-cooked meal, or an expertly baked sweet treat.
Donna’s greatest joy was being Nanna to Mira and Henry. She loved Christmas and holidays and made special cakes for each birthday, creating everything from Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter to Minecraft and Among Us. No challenge was too big for Donna, and she enjoyed planning and researching and perfecting their cakes every year.
To be loved by Donna was to be fed by her. She learned to cook for her family in 4th grade and her many specialties- beef and noodles, cinnamon rolls, muffins, pies and lasagna- were staples at family gatherings.
Donna was the third of seven children born to Solon and Marge Bialeschki of Tolono. Growing up in such a large family gave her a strong work ethic, taught her the importance of a dollar and instilled a sense of loyalty and a family-first mentality that she carried with her throughout her life.
She graduated from Unity High school in 1972. Shortly after graduation, she began working at Illini FS in Tolono. She retired from FS in 2014 after nearly 40 years.
She kept in touch with most of her friends and classmates and enjoyed planning reunions and get-togethers. Donna shied away from the spotlight, but there was nothing she liked more than having the people she loved all together.
Donna will be remembered for her honesty, selflessness, and trustworthiness. A few months before her death she wrote about the expectations she holds or herself:
“Knowing that others trust and depend on my word is vital,” she said. “The only thing a person truly has is their word. If it is not true and trustworthy then you, as a person, aren’t either. Being
kind to others and helping where I can is also important, without expectations of some type of personal return.”
Her memory will live on in her family and friends as we strive to uphold the values she instilled in us.
Donna was preceded in death by her parents, grandparents, and two aunts. She is survived by her children Ryan (Jo) Rich of Centralia, IL, Cari (Kyle) James of St Charles, IL, her two grand children, Mira and Henry Rich; her siblings Jim (Hilda) Bialeschki of Neoga, Linda Bates of Champaign, Penny (Dave) Ortmann of Tolono, Sandra (Ed) Hancock of Fernandina Beach, Fla., Shelly (Jim) Schaller of Savoy and Robert (Brenda) Bialeschki of Atwood.
Funeral services will be 11:00 AM, Monday, June 21, 2021 at Tolono United Methodist Church, Tolono with Rev. Catherine Thomas officiating. Burial will be at Bailey Memorial Cemetery, Tolono. Visitation will be from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM, Sunday at the Freese Funeral Home, Tolono
Memorial contributions may be made to the Champaign County Humane Society.
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