“When you have 12 children who will stand together and shout out to the world what a great mom they have, I think that shows she did something right,” Cheryl Bowers says of her mother, Donna Arthur.
As Cheryl and her siblings talk about their mother, it is apparent Donna did a lot of things right. For those who would like to follow her great example, the latter part of this article will give a summary of how to do it. However, first a little background.
Donna Marie Burnett was born in Cortez, CO, on October 29, 1950, to LeRoy and Maureen Burnett. She was the third of six children, with four sisters and a brother. She grew up in Bluff, where her father worked for the electric company and was bishop of the community.
When she was 10 years old, her father was killed when he fell from a live electric pole, leaving his family destitute and his wife pregnant with their last child.
Donna not only helped her mother at home, she got her first paying job at age 12, as a waitress at the Turquoise Café in Bluff. This is where she met her future husband, Richard Arthur. And now, for the lessons in her story:
Love the father of your children. Richard and Donna were childhood sweethearts and married when they were both 18. Over the past 45 years their love has obviously matured but, according to Cheryl, “My mom loves my dad like they were still teenagers. Their love is open and apparent, and it’s an amazing thing to see. They have taught us the value of a strong marriage.”
Cherish the children that you have. Even as teenagers, Richard and Donna both wanted a large family. They decided that a dozen kids sounded just right and they wanted to end their family with a boy. They were blessed with eight daughters and four sons…and the youngest three were boys. Donna always says that her children are the joy of her life. Each of them jokingly claims to be her favorite child; in their hearts, they all really believe it.
Serve your family. Donna always puts others’ needs before her own. Daughter Trina says, “Mom taught me countless things, but the one that stands out is her work ethic. I don’t know a harder working woman! I will always remember the time I bet her $10 that she couldn’t sit still for five minutes; she lost the bet after two minutes. (She still owes me that ten.)”
Worry more about values than valuables. Richard and Donna entered parenthood with a lot more faith than money, but in the end, faith gave them everything they really needed.
“Mom had an amazing way of making people feel special,” Cheryl reports. “Her children were often asked if they felt that they were lacking for anything with 11 brothers and sisters, and the answer was always ‘No’.
“Even with very little money, we always felt loved and we always felt like we had everything we wanted. They always taught us to treat each other with respect, kindness, and love.”
Make religion a part of your life. Donna has taught her children that if they put God first, everything else will fall into place. When her children were younger they had a harder time believing this, but as they’ve applied this principal in their adult lives, they’ve found it to be true.
“She has always stood firm in her love of God,” Cheryl says. And then (perhaps unknowingly) adds the proof that her mother trusts God, “She never judges others; she says that’s not our job, it’s His.”
Have family traditions. Donna’s daughter, Crystaleen, says their family always looked forward to watching LDS General Conference because on that day, instead of a traditional breakfast, they always got donuts and chocolate milk.
Donna once sent her missionary son in Mississippi some money just so he could carry on their tradition, even though he was away from home. However, of all their family traditions, Donna is most passionate about Christmas. “We all get together for days and days, and we all get along the entire time,” Cheryl says. “There is never any fighting; the family cherishes this time together. We joke that we have the best family in the world.”
Support your children in their activities. Donna not only did her best to make it to all of her children’s events, she now attends all of her grandchildren’s ball games, dance recitals, and other activities. She understands it’s an important way of showing love to her children.
Always act happy; be silly if necessary. Donna tells her children that when life gets hard, that’s a good time for healing laughter, even if she has to get silly in order to coax a laugh. Her family jokes about the time she very seriously asked, “Can you stop by Montana on your way to Texas?” When her family gets together, there is a lot of noise, but there is also a lot of laughter.
Have a love for learning. When Donna was 38 years old — the time many women are “winding down” — she entered college to become a nurse. She had ten children at home, a part-time job, and still managed to get A’s in all of her classes. Donna is an x-ray technician as well as a nurse, and has served many people throughout her career. She has a gift for taking care of people.
Never complain. Donna lost her father when she was ten; her mother died the year Donna started college. She lost a granddaughter who drowned at 18 months of age, and one of her daughters had cancer as a teenager. Another daughter was paralyzed in a freak accident and Donna stayed by her side all the time she was in the ICU.
Donna’s husband has come close to death several times this past year, yet she holds tight to her faith in God and never complains. Despite life’s hardships, Donna not only remains positive, she is always looking for the good in every situation.
Cheryl says, “She is the rock of our family and we know we can always depend on her.” That’s a lot of people depending on one small woman. Besides her dozen children, Donna has 35 grandchildren (and two on the way), as well as three great-grandchildren.
In order of appearance, her children are Lecia Wright, Ricky Arthur, Cheryl Bowers, Denise Adams, Valerie Markle, Crystaleen Hunt, Teresa Kelly, Myriah Arthur, Trina Hosler, and Jeremy, Cameron, and Kevin Arthur.