Becoming friends with others is not always the easiest thing to do. But Donna Gartner found a way to do just that, while adding happiness to the mix. BRETTA GRABAU/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
Becoming friends with others is not always the easiest thing to do. But Donna Gartner found a way to do just that, while adding happiness to the mix. BRETTA GRABAU/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
Donna Gartner of Preston has an important role in her community. In the past she was an active volunteer in the community and her husband served on the city council. While she still cares about the development and success of her community, her role has changed to a more social one. She promotes friendship and family as she exudes happiness and joy, passing it on to whomever she meets.
Gartner was born into a Christian family in Greenleafton at the beginning of the Great Depression. In 1946, she married Keith Gartner and they continued to reside in the Preston area.
For a time, she worked for the Preston Republican under Ludwig Gartner, calling around for the local news and running the folder the day the paper came out.
Later on, she worked for 21 years for the city of Preston.
She and her husband developed a great interest in the Preston community. They wanted to see many improvements within the city and her husband even became an official of Preston to help with this desire.
As time passed, Preston changed and with it came changes in Gartner's life, such as place of residence and children growing up to have their own families.
Throughout all of her life's journey, Gartner learned how valuable spreading joy and love to anyone she meets can mean to them. Now a resident of Traditions in Preston, a senior living facility, she loves to be with people and get acquainted with those she doesn't know.
"My goal in life now is to smile, hug, laugh and happiness and it is a goal that is to continue. I think I have always had that goal, but I've been getting better at it," she said.
There are many individuals living in Traditions. Some of them may not be able to get around well or without a walker. But Gartner still has a car and drives around the city to see the improvements taking place with her ever-enduring desire to see Preston prosper.
"I've seen many great accomplishments and cooperation from the people over the years I've lived here. I saw the Branding Iron, the pool and Park Lane come to Preston," she reminisced. "This is all around a loving, caring community and as life goes on, you realize that more and more. As far as I'm concerned, Preston is the place to live, even living through the pros and cons."
Life still presents her with challenges. Since the world's technology has evolved in such an exponential way, some people have a more difficult time becoming well versed in using computers and smartphones. Still, Gartner does not shirk from a challenge.
"I hope that every day I will be able to accomplish something and learn something new,” she said.
With the long winter last year, her ability to drive around the city was stinted since her car was in storage. To compensate for the time she could no longer spend taking in the community, her son bought her an iPad.
"It was my biggest challenge. At first I really didn't want it, but then I decided to keep learning about it. A little while ago I said to my son, 'Don't take this away from me.' He laughed," she chuckled.
As she becomes more technologically savvy, she is able to email her family, play Scrabble and Google information whenever she hears of something she wants to know.
"When I hear of terms that are new, I look it up to see what it means," she noted.
In the past, Gartner shared her love and excitement for the community by volunteering a great deal around Preston. But now she circulates around Traditions, faithfully sharing her joy with others.
"I like to visit, crochet, puzzles, listen to music and people. I love to talk about my family and I figure they do too," she said.
With this philosophy, Gartner decided to traverse the halls of Traditions and become acquainted with her neighbors. In getting to know them, she simply knocks on their doors, smiles and says she came to get acquainted.
Even speaking with a gentleman living down the hall who crochets gives her a chance to become better friends with the residents.
"I know all the people in Traditions now because of becoming acquainted with them. It is a family here," she described.
Spending a few minutes with her reveals that love and joy she hopes to give people.
Part of Gartner’s joy comes from her positive attitude and capacity to love, she noted, but part of it also comes from her faith.
As a child she learned a lot about the Bible and God. When she grew older, she passed on all she learned to her three children and has prayed and has seen it take root in her grandchildren.
Gartner grew up reading the Bible daily, which she still does. But lately she has also added singing a hymn every day to her devotional time. Also, with the new gadget called the iPad, she has the ability to research the authors and discover their stories that inspired them to write the hymn. Whenever she sings these songs, she does not just sing the words, but she studies the words.
"I pass on what I learn from my devotions to my family and try to pass it on to my friends at Traditions. But I don't sing for them since I'm not comfortable with them hearing me," she commented.
In touring the facility, socializing, putting puzzles together or participating in activities put on at the senior living facility, Gartner imparts her gift to her family there, enjoying their company and telling them that she is praying for them.
But she doesn't stop with Traditions. She also has a great fondness for her church family at the United Methodist Church in Preston. For many years she served as a leader in Sunday school and a member of the United Methodist Women. Whenever possible, she loves to go to the church's Bible study as well.
"I love my church family. I know almost everyone there too," she said, smiling.
Gartner is proud of her community and her friends and family. Just spending a few minutes with her reveals her happiness, pride in Preston and the love and joy she wants to share with others.
Even young people in the area may see this special woman as a wonderful, grandmotherly figure.