Donnie Clarise Holt was born to Jerry Holt and Beulah Davis in Henning, Tennessee on Friday the 7th of January 1939. She was born fourth of six children. After her brothers William, Casher, and Robert and before her sisters Eldora and Linda Bell.
After their mother’s early passing Donnie and her siblings were adopted by her maternal aunt Dora Shane. Together the family lived in St. Louis, Missouri where Donnie continued her education. During this time, she became a member of the first class to integrate in the history of St. Louis Public Schools. She was also the first ever black cheerleader at Soldan High School. After graduating she would go on to attend Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri where she was voted Sweetheart of the Lamp ado Omega Pledges that year.
She also developed her natural talent and interest with multiple art mediums including fabric, metal and paper. She often made clothes for her younger sisters Eldie and Linda. She also displayed a drive and passion for bettering opportunities and illuminating injustices for members of the Black community. Her pride in her blackness and her community only ever grew more and more powerful as time wore on.
It was at the university that she met and fell in love with Raleigh Lewis and the two later married in October of 1962. A year later they would welcome their first child, a son named Keven Leigh. Next came their eldest daughter Djuana Lynn in 1964 and finally their youngest child, Cheryl Jemise in 1967. The Lewis family would spend their early years in Hartford, Connecticut before moving once to Springfield, Illinois in 1974 and then finally the Pacific Northwest in 1981.
It was in Lacey, Washington and then finally Portland, Oregon where the family was able to settle and then flourish over the course of the next 41 years.
Children were married and grand children were born and raised. Donnie was right there dutiful and adoring every step of the way. Not only did she become an even more amazing and loving mother and grandmother to her own biological family but to ANYONE who needed love, a fully belly and a space to feel safe as well.
Her love, her art, her humor, her grace, her generosity, her kindness, her laugh and her face… All are loved and dearly missed.
And so fondly is she reminisced.
Donnie is preceded in death by her husband, Raleigh; elder brothers, William and Robert; as well as her younger sister Eldora.
She is survived by her siblings, Casher and Linda; her children, Keven, Djuana and Cheryl; her grandchildren, Kara Lynn, Gavin-Michael Shane, Natalie Clarise, Olivia Luree, Ivy Elizabeth and Chantal Jemise; and her cats, Wren and Jack.
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