Donna Ahrens

July 17, 1927 ~ May 25, 2021 (age 93)


Donna Marie Ahrens passed away in Crawford, NE on May 25, 2021. Donna was born in Utica, NE on July 17, 1927 to Alvin George and Leona Geraldine (Lebeck) Greenwood. Donna grew up in Utica, NE yet graduated from York High in 1944 at the age of 16. She attended Chadron Normal School. Her first teaching position was District 100, north of Hemingford when she was only 17 years old. She taught in many different rural schools in western NE. She also taught at many schools on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She loved teaching, even after she retired, she volunteered as a teacher’s aide for many years.

Donna married Donald Francis Gowin in 1948; but later divorced. This young couple had two daughters, Lyla and Louise. Then in 1960 Donna married Herbert Erich Louie Ahrens. They raised three daughters: Stephony, Gretchen and Heather. Donna guided many women throughout her life. Two women, though not her birth daughters, are considered as belonging to the family: Vana Bannan, with whom Donna taught at Loneman School for many years; and Robin Wilson, who provided care for Donna late in her life.

Donna taught both in the classroom and outside of the classroom. She taught people to knit, crochet, embroidery and to grow houseplants. Donna belonged to many organizations - including: Bible study classes, quilting clubs, The Red Hat Club and extension club (a 50-year member). She enjoyed gardening, swimming and reading. In her later years she was very thankful for the books on tape program, which enabled her to listen to books, since she could no longer read due to macular degeneration. 


Donna is survived by her daughters Louise (Dave) Hitchcock of Brighton, CO; Steph (Rob) Reed of Fremont, NE; Gretchen (Jay) Lees of Chadron; Heather Ahrens of Hay Springs; Vana (Tom) Bannan of Chadron; Robin (Loren) Wilson of Hay Springs; nine grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren and 5 great-great grandchildren. Donna is also survived by her younger sister, Helen (Bob) Kriz of Surprise, Arizona. 

She was preceded in death by her husband, Herb; eldest daughter, Lyla Gowin Whitehouse; granddaughter Brittany Laura Koehn; her parents; brother Robert Greenwood of Bellwood; her sisters Betty Hemmingson of Denver, Dorothy Johnson of York, and Ila Mae Greenwood of Utica who died as a toddler.


Donna’s wish was to be cremated. The family will hold a private ceremony at a later time. In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established in the honor of Hay Springs Volunteer Rescue and Fire Department. Donations may be made through Chamberlain Chapel. 

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