Donna was born on February 9th, 1937 in Northeast Minneapolis. She lived with her mom, brother, and extended family while growing up. Her mom worked as a full-time janitor cleaning passenger trains at night, so she did not get to see her very much. Having to help around the house at a young age taught her to contribute and the value of hard work. When she was old enough, she got a job at a soda fountain one block from her house.
Donna attended St. Antony School, an all-girls Catholic high school. In her youth, Donna loved to sing and dance. After she graduated, she worked at the NE State Bank for a while before attending beauty school. She then worked at a hair salon.
Donna met Joe Biernat at her cousin’s wedding. In those days, everyone attended everyone’s weddings and baptisms in NE Minneapolis. Joe crashed the wedding, a welcomed custom in their parish. Donna and Joe dated for about a year before getting married at St. Antony Catholic Church.
She continued working as a part-time beautician and Joe worked as a letter carrier for 35 years. They had 4 children, two girls who now live in Becker and Mora, and two boys who live in Zimmerman and Pequot Lakes. She now has 6 grandchildren, 4 boys and 2 girls, and two great-grandsons.
Her family is Polish, and everything was traditional. They flew an American and Polish flag. On Christmas Eve, meat was never served, and they always had hay on the table with a tablecloth over it to signify Jesus in the manger. Dinner included fish and sauerkraut. On Christmas day, Joe made homemade kielbasa that they ate after church service with perogies and more sauerkraut. Joe loved to Polka and played in a Polka band. The family still keeps some of these Polish traditions on Christmas day. While living in NE Minneapolis, the whole extended family lived very close by and they spent a lot of time together at their aunts and uncle’s houses, playing with their cousins. Donna loved to bowl and played on leagues and in tournaments for many years with her daughter, Joël. She has always loved cooking, watching the MN Twins, Carol Burnett, HeeHaw, and Lawrence Welk on TV, and she continues to be a voracious reader.
In 1974, their family moved from NE Minneapolis to a hobby farm in Mora, Minnesota. Donna became a master gardener and was very skilled at canning and using her produce. They didn’t travel much, other than to see family, as they preferred to be homebodies.
In her life, Donna has been most dedicated to her family. She loves her kids and grand-kids and always wanted to have them around. Sadly, Donna lost her husband, Joe January 2014, and her older brother a couple of years ago.
Donna moved into Shepherd of Grace in May 2015 after having a stroke and could not live alone anymore. Donna and her family appreciate and value the environment at Shepherd of Grace because it is a smaller community. The staff knows the tenants intimately, she’s safe, and in a good place where people genuinely care about her.
Her daughter Joël said, “Mom loves the staff and enjoys their visits while they deliver her food and care.”