rosie the riveter

donna glam

Donna Rae McDonough
April 7, 1921 – January 22, 2015


Donna grew up on a farm in a tiny place called Willow Creek, Utah, no longer found on any map because it’s now part of the Ute Indian Reservation. She became a cattle ranch cook at sixteen, even participating in a cattle drive one summer when the ranch owner was short on cowhands.

In 1942, Donna came to Los Angeles to work for Douglas Aircraft, employed as a riveter on C-54’s for the war effort. She was extremely proud of being “Rosie the Riveter,” as she should have been.

After her marriage, she worked for a time with her first husband, Lloyd Thompson, installing carpeting and linoleum. She retired from this activity when she was six months pregnant with her daughter, Pamela. For some years afterward she concentrated her considerable energy on raising her daughter, taking care of neighborhood children, homemaking, and being a horsewoman. She stabled her horses at a barn and equestrian center once located where the Marina Freeway now ends at Lincoln Boulevard.

Eventually, Donna went to work for General Telephone Company, retiring after twenty-five years at age sixty-two to spend more time with her second husband, Sgt. Major Thomas P. McDonough, USMC (ret.). For a time, she was the Governor’s Wife of the Santa Monica Moose Lodge.

She remained active at bowling, crafts, painting, gardening, dancing, Do-It-Yourself building projects, cooking, and reading. Until a stroke damaged her eyesight in 2011, she read almost a book a day, mostly romances and thrillers. She always maintained, “I don’t care what kind of book it is, you can always learn something from it.”

When Donna’s kidneys failed in 2010, she met the challenge of dialysis with courage and a generally positive attitude. She did her own peritoneal dialysis at first until her damaged eyesight made that impossible. She kept her courage and good humor, blessed with a sharp and active mind until the end of her remarkable life at age 93.

donna later

What to do with aged photos when you’re cleaning out an old person’s home and none of the faces are familiar?

There’s a market for them in flea markets and online, of course. Probably other places as well, but that’s what I’m familiar with. I admit to being conflicted by the idea. There are buckets of photos my mother has held onto for years, ranging from the 1920s to near-present.  A lot of them are from World War II when my mother worked as a riveter at Douglas Aircraft. Periodically we go through some of them so she can tell me who the people are and I can pencil it in on the back, but some of the faces are beyond even her at this point. And even if I know their names…they have no context for me. They’re just names.

Eventually, someone will have to deal with these—if not me, then whoever cleans out my place when I’m gone. It seems disrespectful to sell them, yet that’s probably less disrespectful than consigning them to the trash. Which happens. A coworker told me of that very thing occurring when her friend cleaned out her parents’ home. I explained about the market for old photos and she was amazed.

“If only my friend had known!”

If only.

If only other people’s memories could be held as sacred as our own. But that’s the nature of time and change. We hold what we have inside our hearts and when our hearts fade, so do the memories.  As the African proverb says, “Every time an old person dies, a library burns to the ground.”


Here’s my mother, Donna (left), and Aunt Earlda just after they came out to Los Angeles in 1942 to work as riveters for McDonald-Douglas in Santa Monica. I thought it a fitting picture to post on Labor Day as those gals labored mightily to help the war effort. Also, they’re just so damned cute!

donna and earlda3_sm

Do you know a woman who worked on the home front during World War II, even if it was volunteer work? They, or their daughters and other family, may be eligible to join the American Rosie the Riveter Association. Mom and I are members.