Donna Jeanne Chapman was born in Cleveland, Ohio to Robert and Laura Smith on August 20, 1956. She grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland with her two younger brothers, Craig and Edward Smith. While growing up, Donna and her father would spend time together watching Star Trek, and she carried that fond memory with her whenever it would grace the television screen or a new movie was released. Donna graduated from college with a degree in Secretarial Sciences and initially worked as an executive secretary before transitioning to a role as a bank loan officer. Even though she was successful in the business world, she would say that her proudest accomplishment was her three kids: David, Michelle, and Angela. Her love for her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren was unconditional. She always ensured they knew how much they meant to her, offering her unconditional love and support as their steadfast cheerleader in life, regardless of distance or occasion.
When her children were old enough to begin grade school, she joyfully became a stay-at-home mother and participated in her children’s school activities, including Parent Teacher Association, baseball, dance, theater, marching band, and drumline. No matter what creative endeavor her children wanted to embark on, she was the loudest cheerleader in the crowd and always reminded them that the sky was the limit. While participating in PTA, she became president at both the school and council levels for the school district.
Donna’s awe and wonder about the world and universe often led to conversations about all the places she wanted to see and experience. She would gaze at the stars and moon every opportunity, while ensuring that whoever was with her took a moment to appreciate the night sky. It was this fascination and admiration for space that she shared with her son David. They built model rockets for school or personal enjoyment, spent many nights looking through a telescope, and were a part of various space clubs.
Donna and her husband, John Brent Chapman, spent many nights at Disneyland, allowing her even more chances to admire the night sky. They created an unbreakable bond full of wonder and excitement, while appreciating the beauty the night skies brought to the park. During one of their many outings, Brent proposed to Donna at a park bench where they frequently sat and talked. She often spoke of feeling like Cinderella, finally finding her Prince Charming that day, and considered herself the luckiest woman in the world to spend the rest of her life with Brent.
Beyond Cinderella, she had a lifelong love of Disney, especially Dumbo, since elephants were her favorite animal and she cherished the story it told of believing in yourself. In recent months, loved ones from all over have found feathers in random locations and at unexpected times. They have come to believe this is her way of reminding everyone to still believe in ourselves and that she is soaring with her own lucky feather.
Donna’s passion for cooking and entertaining allowed her to spread her compassion and kindness in yet another way—by always ensuring whoever visited never left hungry, even if they had just eaten. She was known for always asking, “Are you hungry?” upon arrival, or already having something prepared when you walked in the door. There were a few things that brought Donna more joy than cooking and feeding others; this love of cooking inspired her daughter Michelle to also learn and share kindness through food.
Donna had remarkable intelligence, authenticity, and compassion for people and life, making her engaging and inspirational to everyone she had the pleasure of encountering. It was a common occurrence for her to make friends with customer service representatives over the phone, cashiers at the grocery store, or a fellow customer while waiting in line. She lived by the belief that kindness could always brighten someone's day. Donna loved every person that walked into her home as if they were her own family.
Donna peacefully passed away on November 15, 2022. Her husband, John Brent Chapman, daughter Michelle Renee Cobb, and son, David Addison Cobb, were by her side during her last days and moments, all uncertain of the cause of her passing. While Donna was in the hospital in her last days, her son David would play music for her, a favorite being “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King. The lyrics “and the moon is the only light we’ll see” brought a new meaning for her son to make this song come true in this mission.
It was later discovered that Donna passed away from bacterial meningitis and sepsis. The family is eager to raise awareness about these diseases, which take so many loved ones away so suddenly and with little warning or opportunity for intervention. Donna was everything to everyone she encountered, and she is greatly missed by her husband and family. She gave her family the world, and now they will give her the universe.
Donna loved to dance, and there was a promise to dance again. Now, her dance floor will be a launchpad. We wish to thank Celestis Memorial Space Flights for making it possible for her to dance among the stars.