Donna Louise Fuller Fairman, a former longtime resident of Three Rivers, died Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Lompoc. She was 83.
Donna was born March 6, 1931, to Walter and Charlotte (Durr) Fuller in Los Angeles. The eldest of three red-haired girls, Donna was born into a family that had fallen on hard times during the Great Depression. Their father without work, the family survived only because of the generosity and love of a nurse, Jessie Cook, and her well-to-do husband who brought them food.
Things got better, as they are wont to do, and Donna graduated from Lynwood High School at age 16, became Miss City of Florence, and at that same young age married Charles Elma Fairman III, a musician, from South Gate. They made their first home in Lynwood where their first three children — Donna, Pearl, and Charles — were born.
The city was not the place they desired to raise their children, so they moved to Three Rivers in 1960, following Ray and Pearl Clayton, who had been their friends in Los Angeles. Their fourth child, a daughter, Melody, was born in Exeter in 1961.
Donna lived in Three Rivers for 43 years. In 2004, a year after the death of her husband, Chuck, she moved to Visalia so she could be closer to amenities and thus continue to be able to live on her own.
She had taken a few lessons in porcelain art (china painting) in Los Angeles and continued to study on her own. She took a few workshops with well-known painters through the years and won many awards in shows throughout California and the U.S. Donna was active in the local Visalia branch of California China Painter’s Association and eventually found herself as president of the organization.
She was involved with Rose Ann Vuich and others in litigation to change the art of porcelain painting from a craft to a fine art venue, which they were able to do. Donna started traveling all across the U.S. to shows, demonstrating and teaching various techniques, and also went to England, Norway, and Russia with her love of painting. She painted and taught for 65 years.
Donna was also a gifted seamstress. She could sew anything from wedding dresses to sleeping bags. She was an active member of the Comfort for Kids project in Three Rivers. She also worked tirelessly with good friends Joyce and Jack Nielsen on estate sales to fund the project.
Donna worked for 17 years as a teacher’s aide at Three Rivers School, mostly in the second-grade classroom of Suzanne Rich. At the time of her retirement, she had been employed longer than any other aide in the history of the school. She also served as PTA president and was active in helping with many school Carnivals and ceremonies. In 1998, she and her husband Chuck received the coveted Founder’s Award from the Three Rivers School PTA.
Donna spent the last year in Lompoc, living with her oldest daughter Donna, who was in charge of her care. The family will miss her creativity, generosity, quick laughter, and especially her homemade pies.
Donna is survived by her three daughters, Donna of Lompoc, Pearl of Idaho, and Melody of Colorado; five grandchildren, Miles Tucker of Texas, Crystal Tucker of California, Matthew Ragan of Arizona, Makala Treptow of Italy, and Malia Odekirk of Colorado; and eight great-grandchildren, Tucker, Tristen, and Nariah Tarap of California, Annagrace, Maddie, Travis, and Charlotte Rose Tucker of Texas, and Isaac Gabriel Waite living at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.
Donations in Donna’s memory may be made to the Comfort for Kids quilt project in Three Rivers under the leadership of Jack and Joyce Nielsen.
A service will be held in Idaho at the home of her daughter, Pearl, date pending.