She was born in Noonan, North Dakota, on Jan. 29, 1936, to Agnes “Ethel” (Sathern) and Arthur “Art” Roness. She was the oldest of three children, joined by her brothers, Larry Roness in 1937, and Noel “Butch” Roness in 1938.
She grew up in Noonan, a small town close to the Canadian border, where she met Lowell Boyd Gochanour, whom she married on Nov. 29, 1952, when they were both a mere 16 years old.
Shortly after they exchanged vows, Boyd joined the U.S. Air Force, and the couple’s adventure began. Their first son, Randall, was born in 1953. She always said, “Who else can say they got pregnant in California, found out about in Texas, and had the baby in Ohio?” Laurie came along in 1955, Kevin in 1956, and Amy, in 1960.
While serving as a military wife, Donna traveled the U.S. multiple times as they moved from duty station to duty station, including a tour at Evreaux-Fauville Air Base, France. With Boyd gone on TDY (temporary duty station) much of the time, Donna learned to be self-sufficient and independent, honing her home repair skills that she would use throughout her life.
The Gochanours’ final assignment was at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. Boyd then became a bush pilot, and together they built Montana Creek Airstrip, in Willow, Alaska, a community hub and access point for people flying in and out of remote areas. Donna handled the business side of things, doing airplane repair work when needed, too. She never shied away from hard work.
She and Boyd divorced in 1987. Not long after that, she moved to Newcastle to be nearer family. Shortly after moving to Wyoming, she moved in with her companion and sweetheart, Duffy Dow, above the canyon on Salt Creek where she continued to remodel, rework, and build things — she was always building, organizing or sprucing up something!
Donna was always artistic, and in Alaska pursued her painting career. She was a founding member of Gallery 20 and United Alaskan Artists. Her scenic paintings have been sold since the 1970s, gracing homes across the U.S. and beyond.
While raising four kids, Donna also worked diverse jobs throughout her life. She was a bar manager (and sometimes bouncer) in a roadhouse in Talkeetna, Alaska, worked an assembly line in Ohio, was a waitress in North Dakota, did census work in Wyoming, and kept books at multiple businesses, to name just a few. She was a multi-talented woman. She was an amazing storyteller, too, always regaling everyone with some comical anecdote about her life experiences across the years and miles. In her later years, she was encouraged to write for the News Letter Journal’s senior page. Along with interviews, each week she wrote columns, rich with stories of her life in North Dakota, her trip to Nome with the Iditarod Air Force (Iditarod sled dog race support team), building and outfitting a remote cabin in Alaska, bargaining with a rug salesman in France, and so many oft-hilarious slices of life. These columns, along with her years of faithful diary entries, letters, and cassette tapes sent to family, hold cherished tales of a life well-lived.