LaDonna Stanley Wallen LaDonna Leigh Stanley, only child of Noble Arnold Stanley and Velma Baker Stanley, was born Third month, Eleventh day, 1933 in the pleasant rural town of Marshalltown, Iowa. She never got over the coincidence that the only other girl born at the Marshalltown Hospital on that day was also named LaDonna Leigh. As they started school together, this caused a good deal of confusion but they both enjoyed being minor celebrities in their town.
These were hard years in Depression America and when LaDonna was eight years old, the Stanleys in their car with some uncles, aunts and cousins in another vehicle made the long trek to California looking for work. The Stanleys spent a year in San Bernardino and then moved to a one-bedroom apartment in Long Beach.
LaDonna remembered a lonely few years of returning from school and always finding her father asleep as he had a night job. Her mother didn't return home until suppertime, so at an early age LaDonna took on the job of cook. Indeed, she became an excellent cook. Velma made all of LaDonna's clothes and made sure her daughter always looked “just so.”
LaDonna's life took a happier turn in fourth grade when she made a good friend whose father was the pastor at First Friends Church in Long Beach. First Friends welcomed LaDonna into their community and this proved a life-changing influence. Upon graduation from high school in 1951, she chose to attend Friends University in Wichita, Kansas.
These were happy years. She made life-long friendships and was able to indulge her love of music, both as a violin student and as a member of a fine concert group known as “The Singing Quakers.” Much to her delight she was chosen Queen of the 1954 Cherry Carnival.
LaDonna graduated from college in 1955 with an education degree, and taught for the next several years in elementary schools in Long Beach and San Rafael, California. In 1958 she met Carl Wallen, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Carl had been drafted into the Army and served two years as a military policeman – grateful to have been stationed in Germany, not Korea. After his discharge, he taught for four years in Bay Area elementary schools. LaDonna met him at San Francisco State College, where they both were taking classes. She spoke of positioning herself at just the right desk where she could catch the eye of the handsome young man without seeming too obvious.
Her plan was a success and the following Eleventh Month, 29th day of 1959 they were married at First Friends Church in Long Beach. Carl became a member there and found his spiritual home among Quakers.
While Carl worked toward earning a Ph.D. in Elementary Education at Stanford University, LaDonna and Carl lived in married student housing known as Stanford Village. LaDonna found a job teaching second grade in a Palo Alto school. Then in 1962, while they were still at Stanford Village, she bore their son Erik, the first of their three sons. That same year, Carl joined the faculty at Oregon State University and they became members of the Corvallis Friends Meeting. In Corvallis their sons Todd and Michael were born.
In 1965, the University of Oregon hired Carl, and so the Wallens transferred their memberships to Eugene Friends Meeting.
Arizona State University recruited Carl to serve as the Chairman of the Department of Elementary Education, so LaDonna and Carl piled the three boys into their pre-seatbelt van along with everything else they could cram in and drove to the desert. A very new environment for them, it proved to be a happy choice. The Wallens bought a two and a half story house (with a pool) that had belonged to a former mayor of Tempe. The house was within biking distance of both ASU and the boys’ schools. It became a welcoming place for family and friends, itinerant Quakers and overseas exchange students. Indeed, it was a place where Quaker business meetings and all sorts of gatherings were held in the days before Tempe Meeting had its own meetinghouse. There was almost always an invitation to a meal for any new attender and a caring attention to their needs.
Any new meeting has its share of growing pains and lots of tasks needing to be addressed. LaDonna took on more than her fair share of responsibilities. When it came to planning and executing the plan for our new meetinghouse, she really cared about seeing all the details through. Critical details – the marked simplicity and lovely use of light – owe their existence to LaDonna.
LaDonna had a talent for concocting plans for creative projects and imagination-stirring get-togethers. There were small quiet events like the weekly Tempe women’s brown bag meetings in one another’s homes. As attendees sat in a circle in someone’s living room or porch, reminiscences of times with a grandparent or memories of events of an early childhood home or three favorite books were shared. The end result was that at the end of three months or so, aside from the very pleasant lunches, all who had been there knew one another in a much fuller way. And this was a gift of LaDonna’s tender organizing. Another of LaDonna’s suggestions resulted in an invitation to an overnight house party for Arizona Quaker women in which Friends connected and made lasting bonds. From the house parties grew a plan for Arizona Quaker Women's Creative Workshops. These gatherings, called Wellsprings, were repeated over several years. LaDonna’s quiet talent for seeing that all details were attended to went into those Wellsprings gatherings. Quaker women brought sleeping bags and stayed the night at the meetinghouse. There were scheduled sessions for journal writing, dancing, mural painting, ceramics, quilt making and more – all of which led to instructors from among those gathered. The Wellsprings events were a gift of LaDonna’s gentle, searching, organizing soul.
LaDonna took a part-time job when the Arizona Museum for Youth opened in Mesa. She was the first Docent-Educator hired because there was a need for someone to help put together a program. It had to fit into elementary school curricula in a way that led teachers to decide that this was a good place to take their students. LaDonna had been teaching part-time in some Phoenix schools and had a good feel for this. In the end she worked at the Museum for Youth for more than ten years and when new educators at the museum were in training they were told to shadow LaDonna. These were the early days for computers and in the late 1980s LaDonna learned enough about them so that she could set up a recordkeeping system for the museum. Rebecca Akins (the museum curator) remarked that LaDonna was the epitome of what she admired about Quaker women in her life – tough and formidable, but always with loving intent.
Over the years, LaDonna served in many positions among Friends at all levels. She clerked Intermountain Yearly Meeting. She clerked Tempe Monthly Meeting. She and Carl served as coregistrars for yearly meeting sessions. LaDonna was the clerk of Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) Section of the Americas in the late 1990s. For the FWCC she attended meetings in England, Mexico, Jamaica and Japan. On behalf of Intermountain Yearly Meeting (IMYM) Friends, LaDonna attended Triennials organized by FWCC. Toward the end of her service with FWCC, she began a gradual decline, but in ways not obvious to any but those who knew her well.
LaDonna and Carl’s chief focus and delight were always their three sons, their daughters-inlaw and the grandchildren. LaDonna had waited long and impatiently for the “grands,” and even before they began to arrive had planned a book to stay in touch with grandchildren. She was so pleased when granddaughters arrived – three of them to balance the three grandsons. In her later years she organized three notebook albums that traced the genealogies on both sides of the family and provided a lively background and history with many photos and mementos of the family history.
In her sixties and seventies, LaDonna experienced some serious illness, and a series of small strokes led to a slow descent into dementia. Because her mother – who had been in LaDonna’s and Carl’s care during her last years – had become such a bitter person as she struggled with dementia, LaDonna was frightened that she would experience the same fate. She expressed that fear to a number of Friends over the years. Her diminishment took a very different direction. Her tender, sweet disposition just seemed to swell and fill that space in her soul. She and Carl sold their home and moved to Friendship Village in Tempe. When LaDonna died on Tenth month, 24th day, 2015, she had moved to the memory care unit, loved by all who attended to her needs and visited her.
LaDonna was predeceased by her husband Carl, and, sadly, by their youngest son Michael. She is survived by sons Erik (Sarah), Todd (Beth) and her six grandchildren. A memorial service in the manner of Friends will be held at 2:00 p.m. on First month, Ninth day, 2016 at Tempe Friends Meetinghouse.
Approved at a special called meeting, held 12/19/2015.