On Monday, May 20, 2019, Donna joined her beloved husband, Gary, in eternal life after complications from Parkinson’s disease. Donna Kay Dalbey was born Tuesday, June 9, 1942, the second daughter to Hortense and John Dalbey, a well-known Albuquerque banker. She was a clever child who enjoyed dance lessons, Girl Scouts, and sports of many kinds. As a teenager, Donna spent summers lifeguarding at the Albuquerque Country Club.
After graduating from Highland High School in 1960, Donna pledged Pi Beta Phi at the University of New Mexico while studying Physical Education. She met a handsome young athlete named Gary Ness. By some stroke of luck, or Donna’s ingenuity, they “mysteriously” were assigned the exact same class schedule. Once together the shenanigans began with Donna slipping a stink bug into Gary’s soft drink, and Gary leaving his biology class dissection leftovers in Donna’s purse. Two short years later they were married and would remain so for 57 years. Donna received her master’s degree in Physical Education and began a career in Recreational Therapy with handicapped and elderly persons. She also taught Jackie Sorenson’s Aerobic Dancing classes for many years. After 15 years of marriage, they welcomed their only child, Rebecca.
Donna was born a nurturer with a servant’s heart. Throughout her life, she lovingly cared for anyone or anything that needed help or compassion including family, friends, strangers, pampered pets, stray animals of all kinds, the disabled, the elderly, and the homeless. It was her desire to be remembered as a member of First Presbyterian Church of Albuquerque. Although she never held a role as church Deacon, she most certainly served others as a deacon in everyday life!
Donna’s personality was as spicy as it was sweet. At a mere 5’2” she never steered clear from speaking her mind or doing what she thought was right. For instance, upon having her purse snatched in downtown San Diego, she grabbed one of the burglars and prevented him from escaping with the others. Donna was furious that the purse had disappeared with 33 tubes of her favorite lipsticks and two eyebrow pencils! She put the perpetrator in an arm lock and waited for the authorities. When the police arrived, it was revealed that the detained assailant was in possession of a stun gun!
Donna was a known prankster. She often entertained houseguests by serving plastic insects atop their meals; likely her world famous, or infamous, meatloaf. Bedsheets were often laced with raw pinto beans as a hilarious good night antic for weary travelers. During campouts, Donna would often heave, “chunk,” a large rock splashing those standing at the edge of the river. Later, she would start epic marshmallow wars over the open campfire.
Donna loved all things New Mexico. She enjoyed the culture, the landscape, and the food; especially at Christmas.
Donna’s life is cherished by her family, longtime friends, and treasured by her grandchildren. She is preceded in death by her parents, John and Hortense Dalbey, and husband R. Gary Ness. She is survived by her sister, Carolyn “Pat” Findley (Jim Clifton); daughter, Rebecca Cox (Dustin); grandsons, Camden, Grady, Ryant and Hesston Cox; sisters-in-law, Susanne Ness and Dora Ness; brother-in-law, Richard Ness (Pamela); nieces, Barbara Buckman (Matthew), Hannah Ness, Caitlin Ness, Rachel Ness; and nephews, Alan Findley (Kim), Andrew Ness (Ashley), and Levi Ness (Shelby).
A private Graveside Memorial will take place at Sunset Memorial Park. A Celebration of Life will be held on Friday, June 21, 2019, 1:00 p.m. at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, (2401 12th Street NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104). In lieu of flowers, please consider providing a donation to, or visiting a New Mexico state park, museum, or local animal shelter.