Donna Van Doren Hutcheson
1944 - 2004
Daughter, Wife, Step Mother, Aunt, Great Aunt, and my Sister;

by  Tom Van Doren

On June 16, 1944, a beautiful baby girl was born to Martin Lloyd Van Doren and Evelyn Margaret Peters Van Doren.  Lloyd was a graduate of Rutger's University in Agriculture and worked his family farm in the area of Belle Mead, New Jersey.  Evelyn was a beautiful woman of German descent, who lived across the Millstone River near Griggstown, New Jersey about 2 miles away.   Evelyn Peters was raised on her parent's dairy farm with her twin brother Raymond and older brother Frederick.

The Peters' had immigrated to America almost 40 years earlier, where they  found  opportunity and a  friendly community in the Millstone Valley.  The Van Doren's on the other hand, had been farming in the area since the 1600's,  and had fought the British in Revolutionary War, and gave faithful service to the community and church for 300 years.  But on this day a little over 2 years after they married, their first child came into this wonderful family.

       Happy  Baby Donna Jean                            Proud Mother Evelyn                                   Proud  Father Lloyd

   Of course the whole family was pleased and couldn't  wait  to see new arrival, Donna Jean Van Doren:

 Grandpa Martin Luther Van Doren                  Grandma Julie Peters                   and ..........
                                                                                                                           Great Grandfather Lewis Runyon Tingley  
Yes, and there were those great toddler years, you know, once you get your footing you can scoot around fast and have fun:

A little worried, dressed up for Easter      Donna just needed a little company         Now let me find this stuff myself!
                                                                             With Ray Peters, Jr.

Then the best thing that could happen to a happy family did, it was a  baby brother,  ME !!   Look at these pictures, she is totally ecstatic.  Donna was 4 yrears old and had no idea how much trouble I could become.  Like, I was younger, and got home early on the elementary school bus, so I could switch the TV to the good old Mickey Mouse Club.  Then the high school bus would bring Donna home 30 minutes later, and she went straight to the TV and turned it over to Dick Clark's American Bandstand with all that stupid dancing and rock and roll.  Right in the middle of Spin and Marty!  and to miss Annette Funicello, who I was in adolescent love with (well Cheryl was pretty cute too).  But Donna was bigger than me, she was in the 9th grade and I was just a shrimpy 5th grader, so she could win the battle of the dial.  So I had to resort to intellect, like locking all the doors so she couldn't get in the house.  All that yelling and screaming really ruined Mickey Mouse, and you know what, by the time she was in 12th grade and I was in 9th, we both watched American Bandstand together and it was pretty cool.

However, we both had to endure forever Sunday nights with Ed Sullivan and Lawrence Welk !!  Life on TV in the 1950's with only three channels was limiting.  But I remember two great Sunday nights which we spent at Uncle Ray's and Aunt Evelyn's.  Uncle Ray was Mom's twin brother, and can you believe he married a nice lady named "Evelyn" !  And they had two kids, Ray who was the same age as Donna, and Susan who was my age.  This led to a lot of great family get togethers which were always loads of fun.  This included both families renting a house at the Jersey Shore together every year for one or two weeks.  I'll show you the shore later.

Now back to those two memorable Sunday nights at Uncle Ray's with Donna and everyone.  The first was this live broadcast of Elvis Presley.  I remember Ed Sullivan telling us what a decent young man he was, although they only showed him from the waist up.   The second night, was when Dad and Uncle Ray could't believe these guys with girls haircuts....The Beatles!!!

Well, here's Donna welcoming me home:

I was an October baby and it looks cold !!   Donna looking all sweet again....               Hey, get rid of the cat already.
                                                                                                                                              (Nice socks mom

Griggstown was a small town, but we were able to manage a few friends for birthdays and get togethers:

Art Carroll, Donna, Noel Eglewcki, Lily Kate Hoagland                   Well, that's me on the steps with the cool hat
        and Ray Peters.                                                                                      and  Donna on the right with the dog .

And of course there were those great family get-togethers:

    Me, Mom, Donna and Dad at Aunt Gertrude's and                  Grandma's and Grandpa's 50th Wedding Anniversary            Uncle Joe's  for Christmas                                               Donna, Grandpa "Fritz" Peters, me Tom, Grandma Julie                                                                                                       Peters, Susan Peters, Eileen Peters (daughter of Fred)                                                                                                       and Ray Peters, Jr.

We had great times at the shore in the summer, swimming, fishing, and just kicking around with Donna and Uncle Ray, Aunt Evelyn, Ray Jr. and Susan.

                       This is one of the best houses we ever rented; two great weeks, ocean front, right on beach.
Just 150 feet to the Atlantic Ocean on the right.  How close?  The high tide line is 3 feet to the right of the snow fence!
A couple of years earlier this house was third from the beach, but thanks to hurricane Carla, we had a great summer.

        Now I said our family has been going to the shore for a long time, and here they are enjoying great summer tradition going back many years:
    Now this is grandpa..... and grandma..... and  Aunt....., oh, I promised not to tell, but you can see everyone had fun !

Here we are with Mom, me, Donna and      What a beach babe, Donna with all the tools  and here she is already
Aunt Lucille, & cousins Holly and Jeff                                                                   picking up guys. (Art Carroll Jr.)                                                                                                                                                

                                        I can assure you that Donna was not the only one who stayed out
                         on the sand too long! First Day Burn !! Here's sun burned Donna with Peppy.

Mom and Dad sure gave us every opportunity for a good education.  Mom and Dad started out in one room school houses, and Dad got his college degree at Rutgers, where I followed with a degree from Rutgers in 1971.  Mom did some college also, and Donna went to Beaver College in Pennsylvania, and finished her teaching degree at Shippensburg State College in Pennsylvania.  Donna spent her career teaching in the Montgomery County Maryland School System, one of the top 10 school systems in the country.  Although we didn't start out in one room school houses, our elementary schools were meager by today's standards, but as we moved up in grades, the schools got did our school pictures!

                             The Blawnburg School,                                      This is the Harlingen School, first thru third grades.
            I only remember one room for kindergarten

Well, here are some of school pictures of Donna, just to show how beautiful she always was, and became;

          ....about third grade                                   .....eighth grade                                   .........tenth grade

                                                           Graduating High School                                          College

Donna was always so happy to hear from me and my children, she was so sweet and entertaining.  She continued to live in Maryland, even after retiring with her husband John, and built a beautiful home right on the Chesapeake Bay on the eastern shore of Maryland, near Pokomoke City.  My oldest son, Lee, graduated from Johns Hopkins, and has stayed in the Baltimore area, so he and Donna kept in frequent contact with each other and our parents in New Jersey.

Unfortunately, I wasn't as able to keep such frequent contact with Donna, Lee and my parents.  I had moved to Atlanta, Georgia after college for work opportunities, and later transferred to Dallas, Texas.  I spent the next 25 years in Texas, raising four more children.  Every summer, we would go to my parent's home and Donna would always come up to spend the whole week with me, my wife Chris, and her nephews Adam and Ben, and neices Amanda and Sarah.  Lee would also come up for the week of fun and family.  Donna loved this time together.  I regret these times were too infrequent, however, Donna lived to see Lee marry and have two grand nephews, as well as Amanda who gave her a grand nephew and niece.   Adam and his great nephew.... And in April, 2002, she and John drove all the way to Fort Worth, Texas for her neice's Sarah's wedding and a great family gathering. 

In 2002 and 2003, Chris and I had the opportunity to visit and stay with Donna and John, in their beautiful home on the Chesapeake.  Her hospitality and love for the family was huge, and will sorely be missed.

In New Jersey;

                       Donna with Benjamin, Sarah and Amanda                                 Sarah, me Tom, wife Chris, Mom, Amanda,
                                                                                                                                Lee, Donna, Ben and Adam.

        BUT FOR ME........   I  WILL  ALWAYS  REMEMBER  DONNA.......

AS  MY  BIG  SISTER.....we will all miss you.