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Donna R. Sands

January 24, 1931 — July 6, 2024


Donna Sands died peacefully at home surrounded by family in La Grande on July 6, 2024 at the age of 93.

Donna was born in La Grande, Oregon on Jan. 24, 1931 to Marion (Geiss) Rees and Mack Rees of Cove, Oregon. She grew up in Cove on the family homestead. She attended Shanghai Elementary School, and then graduated from Cove High School. She earned her teaching degree from Eastern Oregon College of Education.

She taught school in the Willamette Valley and married Donald Walter Sands in 1953. They lived up and down western Oregon and then in Salem, where their first 2 children were born. 

 Don and Donna settled in La Grande in 1960. There they had 2 more children, and adopted another child through the Korean HOLT Adoption agency in 1965. They gave generously to HOLT throughout their lives. Donna visited Korea 3 times. 

Don passed away on Dec. 29th, 2023. He and Donna are survived by their children Randy Sands, of Scottsboro, AL, Penny Purkerson of Olympia, WA, Rodney Sands of La Grande, DeeAnn Sands of Portland, OR, and Lisa Sands Foggia of La Grande. 

They delighted in their nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Don and Donna also welcomed many nieces, nephews and young people from near and far into their home over the years. 

They enjoyed traveling in their RV, boating and riding their jet ski as late as last summer. Donna loved to travel with friends and family all around the world with a special fondness for the Middle East and Israel, where one summer she took classes at the Hebrew University. She organized travel groups for many trips overseas. She also traveled in the USA and Canada by motorcycle with Don on his Gold Wing with a trailer, in a giant sidecar where she often would be reading a book. 

In their later years they took their RV and spent winters in San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico where Donna’s dear cousin Mary Patterson lived. Donna loved the culture and the warmth of Mexico. 

It mattered to Donna to volunteer in the activities she saw as important. She led years of Boy and Girl Scout troops, Methodist youth groups and summer camps for both. 

She was very involved in The Music and Drama Guild in La Grande, doing presentations for members at their meetings, and building puppets with a Punch and Judy theater to take around to schools. 

She loved music, both as a listener, a singer and a pianist. She taught all of her children piano in their young years. Seven of her children and grandchildren went on to become musicians and/or music teachers. Three of Donna’s great grandchildren are studying music. She worked many years with the Community Concerts Organization, bringing in professional musicians for concerts at the College. 

She was also an avid student of history and theology. She had a great collection of books from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Paul Tillich, including The Bible which she read 2 times!

In her 40’s, she and her close friend, Marcy Earnest, led drug and alcohol prevention/intervention youth groups through the Union County Court system and the High School. She also worked with families through the Union County Mental Health Dept. This eventually led her to return to college for a Masters Degree in Social Work at Portland State University in her late 50’s. She returned home to work as a therapist until retirement at age 75, often taking goods like eggs and cookies for payment. 

Donna was ever dependable, kind, cheerful, hard working, personally disciplined, an avid musician, reader and learner. She projected love for everyone who came into her life. She saw their existence as part of a miracle, and she communicated that belief back to them. She modeled paying attention to life as a glass half full rather than half empty. She would often say, “It’s a miracle we do as well as we do!” 

Donna's other activities included studying Spanish and Hebrew and, 50 years with her United Methodist Book Group

Other sayings of Donna’s:

*Hard is not bad, it’s just hard. You can do hard things! 

*Your feelings don’t always know the truth! Act from your values.

*Act your way into a new way of thinking! 

*Happiness is a by-product, not a goal.

*Live your whole life around your values, not focused on finding happiness. Happiness will come and go.

*You can trust that discomfort has its own end life.

*Our culture tells us to seek RELIEF from all discomfort. She said, “Stop asking for relief. Honor the richness of being able to feel a whole range of emotions.” 

*Allow discomfort that comes from caring, even though caring can lead to pain! Hold the pain in honor.

*Say yes to opportunities, even if you are not always that interested at first.

*Regarding decisions, do the right thing as best as you can figure it out and “course correct” if it doesn’t work! Just keep moving.

*Sometimes we get more than we deserve and sometimes we get less!

Contributions in honor of Donna’s life can be made to:

HOLT International, P.O. Box 2880, Eugene, Oregon 97402 or at: 

A celebration of Donna’s life will be held at the La Grande United Methodist Church on August 4th, at 1:00 PM. Everyone is welcome.


To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Donna R. Sands, please visit our flower store.

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Service Schedule

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Celebration of Life

Sunday, August 4, 2024

1:00 - 2:00 pm (Pacific time)

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