OBITUARY: Donna Jo Leding Plumlee


County fair award-winning photographer and Halloween costume designer extraordinaire, the honorable Kentucky Colonel Donna Jo Leding Plumlee, passed away February 28 after a thankfully short-lived battle with that c-word, cancer.

Born and raised in Springfield, TN, this feisty redhead was a daddy’s girl to the late Anthony John ‘AJ’ ‘Tony’ Leding, a devoted daughter to the late Rebecca ‘Becky’ Elizabeth Porter Leding, and a pain in the neck to little brother Frank Patrick ‘Pat’ Leding of Hermitage, TN.

Her deviousness presented at an early age when she would sneak behind her parents’ place of business to smoke discarded cigarette butts…in full view of the health department ladies across the street who would call Becky to “come get Donna.” Some of her earliest and fondest memories were spending time with her grandmother, Ma Porter, eating homemade biscuits and being a regular sh*t-*ss. Ma Porter, also a known sh*t-*ss and from whom Donna learned a great deal, was affectionately referred to as “shick-aker” by young Donna, who was so young at the time, she was unable to pronounce sh*t-*ss and it came out shickaker instead. Always an original, even to the point of developing her own words, shickaker is now an affectionate term of endearment amongst her family.

After winning first prize in the kindergarten Halloween costume contest parade thanks in part to the addition of a real calf’s tail pinned to her butt (R.I.P. calf, but this is Donna’s obit), she went on to attend the University of Tennessee, eventually earning a Master of Science in Social Work.

During grad school, she met her beloved husband, George Newton Plumlee, Jr. originally of Oak Ridge, TN. Claiming an intense love of nature and caving, she tolerated said activities until he put on a ring on it. In all honesty though, her love of travel paired well with his (and now hers) membership in the National Speleological Society, whose annual caving conventions took them all over these great United States during their 48 years of marriage.

When she wasn’t busy traveling to all 50 states, Donna devoted 30+ years in service to her career as a social worker at the Nashville Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. She went above and beyond seeking services for the many veterans and their spouses she came to know and love over the years. Facilitating emergency weddings by baking cakes and arranging flowers, clearing out the apartments of veterans who passed away, and walking the dogs of old widows were just some of the ways Donna showed her love for others. Her daughters learned the phrase “Are you 100% service connected?” at an early age, as it was the first question from Donna upon learning of someone’s veteran status, whether in the grocery line or at a restaurant.

Always the life of the party, she relished being the “fun aunt” and generally embarrassing her daughters any chance she got. While said antics may have gone unappreciated in their younger years, these life lessons of “just hang loose, just have fun” have been instilled in her daughters, five nieces, and many grand-nieces and nephews. Her always cheerful disposition served her greatly in connecting with grandsons Jack and Milo Meeuwis of Madison, TN. Caring for them in their infancy was the “greatest job” she held in her 76 years of mischief-making.

She did other stuff too. More travels to Europe and Central and South America to relish in the local cuisine. A lighthouse tour of the Outer Banks, North Carolina. Many cakes were baked (the secret ingredient is orange juice), gingerbread houses were hot-glued together, dance parties were had, buttercups were picked, and fits of laughter rang out on Sunday afternoon drives through the country.

What remains are unfinished sewing projects in her craft hoard, unlabeled family photos too numerous to count, an unwieldy amount of “live laugh love” and “dull women have immaculate homes”-type décor, and a house full of memories to clean out lovingly bequeathed to George and daughters Mary Meeuwis (Frank) of Madison, TN and Catherine Plumlee (Adam Kiepe) of Omaha, NE. “I’m starting…I got two bags of goodwill ready to go,” said Donna Plumlee, circa 2017.

The family would like to express their deepest gratitude to the friends who have supported them and Donna throughout her illness, as well as to the physicians and caregivers at Vanderbilt and Brookdale Assisted Living.

In true Donna Jo fashion, a long, drawn out process of putting her to rest will begin with visitation on Sunday, March 3 from 1-4 pm at Robertson County Funeral Home in Springfield, TN. More visitation will take place on Tuesday, March 5 from 1-2 pm followed by a memorial service at 2 pm, also at Robertson County Funeral Home. Feather boas are optional. A private burial will take place on Wednesday, March 6 at the Plumlee family cemetery in Celina, TN.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for stories or honoring Donna with donations to a charity of your choice.


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