Wanda Helen Donahue
April 30, 1925 ~ November 17, 2022
Wanda Donahue (born Wanda Helen Wojtkowski), of Gulfport, FL, came to life 97.5 years ago, on April 30, 1925. She passed away peacefully on November 17th, 2022 at the home of Ellen Dalton, her daughter, in Atlanta, GA. She was encouraged lovingly throughout her passage by daughter, Anne Shuri, Ellen and son-in-law Ross. She was preceded in death by her husband, Bart Donahue, her parents and her siblings Frank Wojtkowski, Jr., Sophie Borkowski, Stanley Wojtkowski, Zigmund “Ziggy” Wojtkowksi, Anne Talis and Irene “Batesy” Nuciforo. In addition to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchild, she leaves siblings Tom Wojtkowski, Edmund Wojtkowski, George Wojtkowski, Teresa Wojtkowski Jordan, Conrad Wojtkowski and Mona Wojtkowski Bonnivier.
Born to Anna Yuhaski Wojtkowski and Frank Wojtkowski, Wanda grew up in the middle of 12 brothers and sisters on Onota Hill in Pittsfield, MA, in an enclave of Polish immigrants. A tomboy, with flaming red hair and mountains of physical energy, Wanda learned English at Russell School on Pecks Road. One of Wanda’s fondest memories was of her first-grade teacher who praised her athleticism and made her feel special among the English-speaking kids from wealthier homes. She graduated from Pittsfield High School.
During World War II, while her brothers served in the military, Wanda joined the family’s dairy business and made deliveries throughout Berkshire County. She was dubbed “Milkmaid 1942 Style” in a photo in the Berkshire Eagle newspaper. As G.I.s returned after the war, she was administrative professional at General Electric Corporation. In 1955, she married Bart Donahue, her supervisor there. They had three daughters: Kathleen Sherwood (Andy) of Montreal, Quebec, Anne Shuri of Gulfport, Florida and Ellen Dalton (Ross); five grandchildren: Devon Sherwood, Jackson Dalton, Nolan Dalton, Kendra Dalton Null (Rob), Brittany Dalton Goins (Taylor) and one great-grandchild, Evelyn Null. While her daughters and grandchildren were the absolute lights of her life, Wanda enjoyed her large family, including brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and their spouses. For years, she also enjoyed a special friendship with Frank
Karwoski with whom she cruised, polka danced and attended dinner theaters.
Wanda was a complex and fiercely competitive woman with strong opinions she shared freely. Coming to adulthood as the women’s liberation movement took root, she was an advocate for female leaders, women’s rights, human rights and equality in all ways. An entrepreneur and self-taught wellness, nutrition and prevention practitioner, Wanda operated a successful Women’s fitness salon with her sister, Batesy Nuciforo. Advising others, especially family members, how to lose weight and be physically active was a lifelong practice she continued even with her home hospice nurses. Over the years, she inspired hundreds to lead healthier lives.
Wanda’s special passion was tennis. She purchased her first racquet in the late 1950s, with S & H Green stamps and went on to join the General Electric Athletic Association where she became a regular regional champion, taking particular pleasure in dominating female players from fancy country clubs and men who were decades younger. She filled her home with trophies and played into her 80s, quitting when she could no longer execute a smashing top spin. She avidly followed the careers of Billie Jean King and the Williams sisters and cheered on Polish player Iga Swiatek this summer. If Wanda had been born 50 years later, she might have competed against one of them on a tennis court somewhere. Increasingly limited by her Failing vision and vertigo, Wanda walked for miles each day and had a pull-up bar installed at home, mastering chin ups into her mid-90s.
Wanda will be cremated per her request, with her ashes nourishing the root ball of a tree, planted where her family will be able to relax under shade. A family ceremony will be planned in the future. We will think of her not as resting in peace, but as eagerly dominating a tennis opponent on a hot summer day on a red clay court.