Obituaries » Donna Lee Clayton Benson
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April 1, 1937 - March 26, 2022
Funeral Home Russon Mortuary Bountiful
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Donna Lee Clayton Benson died at home on 26 March 2022. Donna Lee was born to Don Carlos Clayton Jr. and Evva Gines Clayton on 1 April 1937 in Price, Utah. She was the oldest of their four children. She loved her younger siblings: JoAnne, Carl, and the baby of the family, Wayne. The family lived in Price where her father worked for Mendenhall Auto Parts. Her father always had a large garden and enjoyed making sure his children had enough to eat. Donna Lee thought the world of her mother; she always felt blessed with goodly parents and a noble mother. Donna Lee always spoke of her mother as the most fun, most loving, most interested in her children, most committed to the Lord, woman she knew. Often she would come home from school and her mother, making beef stew, would dip out some on a piece of bread and they would sit together and she would tell her mother all about her day. Home was Donna Lee’s refuge and haven, because Evva made it that way.
When Donna Lee was 15, she stopped to watch a baseball game. A foul ball hit her, split her left eye open, and smashed her nose. The doctors wanted to give her a glass eye but her mother insisted they keep her real eye. Although she was considered legally blind in her left eye, it would have prevented her from being blind should something have happened to her right eye.
Not too long after her accident, the family moved to Bountiful where Donna Lee landed her first non-babysitting job dipping ice cream at an ice cream shop on Main Street. She attended Davis high school and enjoyed many activities there, especially being on the yearbook staff. In 1955 she graduated, received scholarships to attend college, and prepared to attend BYU in the fall.
On September 12, 1955 Evva passed away suddenly at the age of 46. Donna Lee was only 18. It was a dark time in their family and her younger siblings say that she was the glue that held her family together. She had attended only two semesters of college when she began working to help relieve her father’s financial stress, hoping to help out the family.
Don remarried Ellen McConkie and they had three children, Kenneth, Sandy, and Sherrie. Donna Lee loved all her little brothers and sisters. Family meant everything to her, and she quietly sacrificed her time, energy, and means to support them. She encouraged both Carl and Wayne to serve and supported them financially as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She and JoAnne enjoyed moving out on their own and being roommates for many years.
Donna Lee worked for 13 years at Hill Air Force Base where she started in the typing pool and advanced to a contract negotiator before quitting to focus on having a family. One of the buyers with whom she worked told her, “If my wife made as much money as you do, I wouldn’t let her quit.” She replied, “That’s because you don’t know what’s important, Joe.” She was sealed in the Salt Lake Temple to John William Benson on 6 October 1967. It took Donna Lee eight years to get pregnant, but through her faith they were able to have one child, Evva Courtney, named of course in honor of her mother.
Being a mother was Donna Lee’s greatest joy in life. In a blessing when Courtney was about to leave home the Lord told Donna Lee, “You’ve given all of your being and your whole soul to being Courtney’s mother.” This reassurance from the Lord meant everything to her and she has been wonderful mother. Courtney remembers her hanging up almost every paper brought home from school on the kitchen wall; she knew how proud her mother was of her work. Donna Lee would also plan little and big vacations for she and Courtney. One of Courtney’s favorite childhood memories is Donna Lee helping her set up her own mailbox in the driveway of their house in Colorado in which Donna Lee would lovingly leave letters for her. Courtney says, “My mother was always my greatest support and biggest fan. She is a kindred spirit, and we loved talking about the gospel and Heavenly Father and the Savior together. I knew her commitment to the Lord, and I knew her commitment to me.” One example of that commitment came when Courtney had to make an insect collection in seventh grade. Donna Lee became a very enthusiastic bug collector and told Courtney one day when she got home from school that she had found the largest bug yet for the collection. What normally may have been the distasteful task of collecting a gross dead bug Donna Lee recognized as an opportunity to serve her daughter.
Donna Lee struggled with anxiety and depression beginning in her early twenties to the end of her life, There were dark times, but many more good times. She did not let her struggles define her life, although they shaped her experiences and through turning to the Lord strengthened her testimony.
Despite her own challenges, Donna Lee looked for and found opportunities to serve those around her. Whether it was giving rides to people without transportation, delivering meals, or simply making sure there were always tasty snacks for her grandchildren, Donna Lee enjoyed lifting people’s burdens.
Donna Lee had great integrity. Courtney remembers one time when she got a free soda from a machine she took the time to find someone to give the money to. She had a couple of opportunities to save herself a lot of money or get a lot of money by telling just a small lie, but even though she could have used the money, she valued her integrity more.
The two things that were most precious to Donna Lee were the gospel of Jesus Christ and her family. She always said, even to the end of her life, that all she wanted was for all her family to return home to Heavenly Father, and that there be “no empty chairs.” She lived her belief, and set a great example to those around her of being focused on what matters most and not on worldly things.
She has been blessed with two granddaughters, Lauren Donna and Rachel Linda, who are the light of her life. The Italian proverb, “When a child is born, so is a grandmother” fit her to a tee. Although she was 73 when her first grandchild arrived, she thoroughly enjoyed her. She would show up at Courtney’s house in Salt Lake unannounced to visit Lauren. She would take her on long walks in the stroller. When Lauren got a little older Grandma B, as she became known, was down on the floor playing with her. She nearly killed David and Courtney when they moved to Pocatello when Lauren was only 18 months old. She said, “They can go, they just need to leave Lauren.” Grandma B moved to Pocatello after her second grandchild, Rachel, was born so she could be near them. Grandma B was always getting fun things for them to play with, like a Bubble Monsoon or an inflatable pool. She always kept her pantry well provisioned with treats and favorite snacks for her granddaughters.
To the very end Donna Lee was pleasant, loving, and kind despite her health challenges. She could laugh at herself and always looked for ways to uplift others. Even though she was too tired to get out much, she loved to sit in her chair and watch the birds out the window. While she was under hospice care she shared copies of the Book of Mormon and her testimony with every nurse and aid that entered her home. They could feel her goodness and it sincerely touched them. She radiated goodness and love. She lived up to the promise in her patriarchal blessing that she “should live and become a woman amongst women.”
Donna Lee is preceded in death by her parents and her brother Carl (Kay now Burningham) Clayton and Wayne (Judy) Clayton and her sister Sandy Clayton. She is survived by her sisters JoAnne (Ken) Wise and Sherrie (Scott) Openshaw, and her brother Kenneth (Rebecca) Clayton; her daughter Evva (David) Housley; and her granddaughters Lauren and Rachel Housley.
A funeral service will be held Tuesday, April 5, 2022 at 11:00am at the Centerville First ward building, 160 S. 300 E., Centerville, Utah, where a viewing will be held from 9:30-10:30 am prior to services.
Services will be streamed live at the Russon Mortuary & Crematory Facebook page and on this obituary page. Streaming will begin 10-15 minutes prior to services.
In lieu of flowers donations to the charity of your choice would be appreciated.