Mrs Nyla "Gma" Mae Thoreson Donaldson

April 21, 1936August 19, 2021

Nyla Mae Thoreson Donaldson, 85, of Axton, Va. passed away Thursday, August 19, 2021. She was born April 21, 1936 in Flandreu, South Dakota to Neal Thoreson and Myrtie Amelia Paulson Thoreson.

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband of 38 years, Orlow Buell Donaldon; grandson, David Anthony Finch; brothers, Marlyn Thoreson, Dwayne Thoreson and his wife Dell, Laurel Thoreson, Reverend Roger Thoreson, and Reverend Ronald Thoreson and his wife Marilyn.

Nyla Mae is survived by her daughters, Marion Ann Landers and husband Darrell, Mary Elaine Powell and her husband Chip, Laura Lee Meadows and her husband Clyde; son, Samuel H. Donaldson, Sr. and his wife Nancy; grandchildren, Luke Powell, Lara Ann Jackson, Erin Lucinda Finch, Daniel Alan Donaldson, Joshua Aaron Donaldson, Madeline Elaine Powell, Clyde Wilson Meadows, III, Sasha Marie Donaldson, Samuel Hagan Donaldson, Jr. and Alexander David Powell; nine great grandchildren; sister, Arlys Johnson and her husband Denny; brothers, David Thoreson and his wife Kathy and Gary Thoreson and his wife Lucy; sisters-in-law Betty, Beverly and Anne Thoreson and many beloved nieces and nephews.

Nyla Mae was an artist, actress, radio DJ and a drug and alcohol counselor. She loved painting, working in her garden and making trips to the beach.

As a second generation Norwegian, Nyla had the heart of a Viking. She was tough and kind, stern and compassionate. Nyla taught her children to love everyone.

The family will receive friends at the home of Mary Powell. A graveside interment will be held at State Veterans Cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia at a later date.

Memorials may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, Donor Care Center, PO Box 758540, Topeka, Kansas 66675-8540


  • Neal Thoreson, Father (deceased)
  • Myrtie Amelia Paulson Thoreson, Mother (deceased)
  • Orlow Buell Donaldson, Husband of 38 years (deceased)
  • David Anothony Finch, Grandson (deceased)
  • Marlyn Thoreson, Brother (deceased)
  • Dwayne Thoreson, Brother (deceased)
  • Dell Thoreson, Sister-in-law (deceased)
  • Laurel Thoreson, Brother (deceased)
  • Reverend Roger Thoreson, Brother (deceased)
  • Reverend Ronald Thoreson, Brother (deceased)
  • Marilyn Thoreson, Sister-in-law (deceased)
  • Marion Ann Landers, Daughter
  • Darrell Landers, Son-in-law
  • Mary Elaine Powell, Daughter
  • Chip Powell, Son-in-law
  • Laura Lee Meadows, Daughter
  • Clyde Meadows, Son-in-law
  • Samuel H. Donaldson, Sr., Son
  • Nancy Donaldson, Daughter-in-law
  • Luke Powell, Grandchild
  • Lara Ann Jackson, Grandchild
  • Erin Lucinda Finch, Grandchild
  • Daniel Alan Donaldson, Grandchild
  • Joshua Aaron Donaldson, Grandchild
  • Madeline Elaine Powell, Grandchild
  • Clyde Wilson Meadows, III, Grandchild
  • Sasha Marie Donaldson, Grandchild
  • Samuel Hagan Donaldson, Jr., Grandchild
  • Alexander David Powell, Grandchild
  • Arlys Johnson, Sister
  • Denny Johnson, Brother-in-law
  • David Thoreson, Brother
  • Kathy Thoreson, Sister-in-law
  • Gary Thoreson, Brother
  • Lucy Thoreson, Sister-in-law
  • Betty Thoreson, Sister-in-law
  • Beverly Thoreson, Sister-in-law
  • Anne Thoreson, Sister-in-law
  • Mrs. Donaldson is also survived by nine great grandchildren and many beloved nieces and nephews.

  • Wounded Warrior Project Donor Care Centr


  • Family will receive friends at the home of Mary Powell, Graveside Interment service at a later date


Mrs Nyla "Gma" Mae Thoreson Donaldson

have a memory or condolence to add?

Madeline Powell

October 13, 2021

I will always carry such strong memories of the little metal box house that Gma and Gpa lived in in Tampa. Going to see them every year was such a highlight of my childhood. Sitting around the table playing scrabble, sitting on the porch with Gpa, watching Gma do puzzles on the couch in her nightgowns. I’m so happy I have these memories to hold on to & I’m so thankful you’re not in pain anymore, Gma. Sending you so so much love.

Annie Landers

October 10, 2021

I think more than anything, mom loved to read and learn about new things. From mathematics to science and all things in between. She read about Exploration ,the World, Africa, books about the Bible, the Bible, schools of thought, Trees, History, stories about strong women, and much more. This was our commonality. Mom and I could talk for hours about politics, past and current events, even about all my nursing classes. She just loved learning. I think perhaps that was one of her greatest gifts --- an inquisitiveness for life and people. She loved Psychology and the things that make people tic. She knew Jesus made me tic and had a way of always leading me back to my faith whenever I was troubled by something. That's what a good mom does---because each child is different. She had this ability to see the best in everyone. A moment that sticks out in my mind about my mom happened when she was living with me in Augusta. I had come home from work late and mom asked me how my night went. I told her good and that I had made the exact amount of money I needed for my bills ; that happened a lot. Then I just started crying and told her I didn't know how much longer I could go on ---working night and day and then getting up early every morning to drive Lara to school and back---for 12 years--her school had no bus. So, I went to bed and for the next week, my mom got up and drove Lara to school so I could get a few extra hours of sleep. I'll never forget that. Shortly thereafter she moved to Statesboro for her new job with Willingway as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor. We helped each other a lot during our alone time .She was my best friend. I miss her like crazy, but know she's in a better place. God rest her soul!

Sasha Donaldson

October 8, 2021

Sasha Donaldson

October 8, 2021

Sasha Donaldson

October 8, 2021

Sasha Donaldson

October 8, 2021

Sasha Donaldson

October 8, 2021

Sasha Donaldson

October 8, 2021

Samuel Donaldson Jr

October 8, 2021

She was an amazingly unique individual that showed me nothing but love. I will always miss the times we didn’t have together and cherish the ones that we did.

Nate Thoreson

October 8, 2021

Aunt Nyla!
What a mix of emotions-sadness and joy. Sadness that your strength, wit, and love will live through memory here and joy because you are seeing Jesus face to face!
Whenever we made our long car rides from California to South Dakota to spend time in Flandreau, it was Nyla that was the great mystery to me. I never knew if I would get to see her-but when I did, she left an impact. She was so tough to hold her own against all those brothers, and yet she was so tender to have humble curiosity in others. She wanted to know how I was personally and what I was up to in school, sports, and friends. She cared. I thank God for her and seeing God through her and am so thankful she captured some of her story for us to enjoy. She is more alive than ever and gets to play as much tennis as she wants! Love you Nyla and all our love to the family.


Mom in 1972. She was gorgeous and had no idea. She was stylish when she had to be. But would mostly rather be in shorts or white jeans (super cool in the '70's) and a T-shirt.


Gma and Alex eating watermelon at Chip and Marys in VA. This was after she came to live with us in 2016 after Dad's death.


Loving the view and being outside. She was watching Lara trim us the crepe myrtles.


Beautiful Mama!


Annie, Laura Lee, Mary and Sam at Mom and Dads in Tampa. 2016


Family, family, family at Mom and Dads.


Mary and Maddie.


Luke, Allye and Alex. Playtime at the bouncy place.


Mom, Dad, Annie, Mary, Laura, Sam. At Annie's log home in Tignall GA.



"I, of and by myself, had never accomplished anything in my life!!! I just rode in the wagon, pulled by one of my three older brothers. Then when old enough to go outside; I ran, played, and visited all the neighbors around the neighborhood. When we moved to a bigger house, I got to see a larger lay of the land and a river too. A river to skate in when it froze, to fish in when Spring came, and houses to make from the high grass. We were seven boys and two girls at the ending of mother's birthing so now I had a lot to help Mom with. Arlys and I did women's work. The boys all knew how to make another mess." -Nyla

Our mother grew up in Flandreu, South Dakota. She loved to play marbles, hopscotch, and to climb trees. She loved skating on the river or fishing in it. But life was hard for her father coming off the heals of the Great Depression and into WWII. It was a man's world. He provided for his large family. He was a hard worker but was not affectionate and seldom smiled. When he did, it covered his whole face. My mother grew up to love tennis, sports, theater, and Jesus. Mom made a friend named Marion that she met in the American Indian School in Flandreu. She felt a deep respect for the Indigenous people that lived on the reservation nearby. Mom was always passionate about the causes that filled her heart and mind.

"My teens came along and I truly fell in love with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Now I felt I had a purpose in life, and a God who loved me. God the Father, Jesus my Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit from the Trinity entered my heart and soul to help me understand the things that I was learning about my faith." -Nyla

One of our mother's favorite stories to tell was when she snuck off to play in a tennis tournament. This event in her life shows her independent spirit and her fearlessness. She saved her money, boarded a bus to Sioux Falls, and played the game she loved.

She called it...
"My Momentous Day" ....I told no one. I took a bus to Sioux Falls and lied on my application about my age so I could enter a tennis tournament. I played the game and whipped my opponent. It was a long, hard game. I was proud. I now had the chance to go back the next day and move on in the tournament. But, as I sat on the bench, I told God I had lied to get to play and now the world would know----Oh God, forgive me.....I will never lie again! As soon as I said that it began to pour rain and it continued through the next day of play. I had a promise to keep that God asked of me and from that time on I did not lie."-Nyla

In high school, mom developed a love of writing. She was the feature editor of the high school newspaper. She did well in school and loved to be a part of things that mattered. She attended Augustana College from 1954-1957. It was in college that she found her love of theater and met Orlow Buell Donaldson, III., our father. Mom and Dad married in 1957, moved to Fargo, and the oldest of us, Marion Ann, was born. Mom stayed home with Annie while Dad worked as a DJ, taught high school English, earned his Masters in Theater Design, and completed the ROTC program in three years instead of four. After college, Dad joined the Army as an officer and the beginning of our family left the Dakotas for good.

A family in any branch of the military moves. We belonged no where and everywhere. We made and lost friends. We guess it was the same for our mother. One thing our mom did put her foot down about was to never live on a military base. We never did. In 1959, Mary Elaine was born in Ft. Monmouth, NJ. The next stop in our family's journey was Germany where Laura Lee was born in 1962. Mom met her best friend, Ann Stoddard. Our mom's first words to Ann were that she wore too much makeup. Our mother didn't wear any. A strange friendship was born that lasted to mom's dying day. Mom and Ann were both busy in Germany with three small children. Ann had three boys and mom had her three girls.

After Germany, we moved to Columbus Georgia where Sam was born. Finally our mother got the son that she and Dad were waiting on. Our family was now complete. We headed to our next stop, Augusta GA. While we settled into life in Augusta, Dad was sent on his first tour of Viet Nam. Mom put a map up on the wall with tacks to show us where Dad was at all times. Mom became involved with Officer's wives' events. She was editor of the Officer's Wives' Club paper and she organized dinners and luncheons including some for up to 200 people. She tried the life as a good "Officer's wife", but it was just not for her. During Dad's second tour, we moved to Green Cove Springs, Florida. We lived next to mom's best friend, Ann and her four kids. Those were such good times.

Every summer we would travel to visit family and friends. Dad was usually off to our next stop, getting us our new home, and getting settled. A couple times when we were all young, we went to St.Paul, Minn. to see our father's sister, Sally, and her family. One summer while in St. Paul, Dad's aunt Ruthie died. All five of Sally's kids and the four of us drove from St. Paul to Tampa Fla. It was a non-stop trip with three adults and nine kids in a station wagon. We had many traveling adventures. We also loved our visits with Ann and John and their kid when they lived on the St.John River in Florida. Life on the river suited us each in our own way.

After Green Cover Springs, we moved to Kansas, Alexandrea Va, and Indianapolis. Our final move as a whole family was back to Augusta, Ga. Mom always said, "everyone was drinking back then...." But alcohol became the norm in the last few places that we lived. The compulsion to drink without knowing when to quit was well established in our family. It broke us. We fragmented and had some very dark years. But love and sobriety brought us all back together. Then Mom and Dad, both sober, remarried twenty years after their divorce. The four of us kids and eight grandkids were there when they remarried. It was a grand occasion.

Mom and Dad showed us that the bridge back from brokenness can be mended. They were a beacon of strength to us and to all of their grandchildren. Mom OVED her children and all of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Mom's many different Jobs

1957 to 2021--wife and mother, mover and shaker, mother duck to her ducklings
1976-1977--Recreation Aid at the Performing Arts Center at Ft.Gordon, Ga.
1977-1979--Air Personality/Music Director at Penne Broadcasting, Leesville, La.
1979--Test Administrator at Education Division at Ft.Gordon, Ga.
1979-1984--Learning Center Senior Manager, Office of the Secretary, Learning Center Branch, Ft.Gordon, Ga.
1984-1988--Assistant Director, Southeaster Training Corp., Ft. Gordon, Ga.
March 1988-June 1988--Weekend Counselor, Melbourne, Fl
July 1988 to 1989--Primary Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Heritage Health Corp. Augusta Ga.
1989-1993--Counseling Co-Coordinator at Augusta Regional Medical Center, Augusta, Ga.
1994-1998-Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Director of the Woman's Home, Willingway Hospital, Statesboro, Ga.

Mom's Play and roles in them

1956-1958 Ladies in Retirement Emily Creed
Uncle Tom's Cabin Aunt Ophelia
The Importance of Being Earnest Lady Bracknell
The Corn is Green Miss Moffat

1968 The Mouse Trap Molly Ralston

1973 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Miss Furnival

1986 See How They Run Miss Skillon
LuAnn Hampton Laverty Oberlander Claudine Hampton
Noises Off Mrs.Clackett/Dotty Otley

1987 Mornings at Seven Ida Bolton

1988 Equus Dora Strang

1988 Assistant Director Brighton Beach Memoirs

Letter From Heaven

When tomorrow starts without me,
And I'm not here to see,
If the sun should rise and find your
Eyes, filled with tears for me.

I wish so much you wouldn't cry,
The way you did today,
While thinking of the many things
We didn't get to say

I know how much you love me,
As much as I love you,
And each time you think of me,
I know you'll miss me too.

When tomorrow starts without me,
Don't think we're far apart,
For every time you think of me,
I'm right there in your heart.

One Minute After You Die

Angels usher your soul to Heaven. (Luke 16:22)

You immediately enter God's presence. (2 Cor 5: 6-8)

You are conscious, in command of your thinking, feeling, speech, and memories. (Luke 16:19-31)

You participate in magnificent worship with angels and believers before the Throne of God and Christ. (Rev 4-5)

You are aware to some degree of activities and events on Earth. (Rev 6:9-10)

You will recognize and communicate with believers who preceded you to Heaven. (Luke 9:28-36)

“Quite The Gal”
Authorized Biography
as written in first person by Marion Ann Donaldson Landers

I was born April 21, 1936 in a birthing home in Flandreau, South Dakota. I was the 4th child in the line of 9, and the first of 2 girls. I had curly blonde hair and blue eyes.

I am a 2nd generation Norwegian and was taught to work hard, be self-sufficient, love God, Sunday School, and softball.

When I was a young child, some of my favorite things to do was play marbles, hopscotch, climb trees, and horse around with my siblings. As I got older, I had to clean the whole house once a week with no help from my brothers. I really enjoyed fishing in the Little Sioux River behind our house and playing in the tall grass. I liked ice skating, fishing , and riding our horse. In the winter we used to jump off the garage roof into the deep snow. Flandreau was a small town and we all roamed the streets, went to the bakery, and bought soda pop. The country was slowly coming out of the Great Depression. Dad worked hard everyday drilling wells and running tractors for the city. We always had our nice big house, food, and clothes.

I really liked Sunday School and being around different kinds of people. Flandreau was also home to the largest American Indian School in the United States. I felt drawn our indigenous friends, but mingling was discouraged. As I got older, I had a special friend from the tribe named Marion. Her parents taught at the Indian school. The girls were all taught how to sew on machines, but when they got home, they didn’t have a sewing machine.

In high school, I particularly enjoyed writing. I was the feature editor of our high school newspaper. But my true passion was tennis. One year, I entered a tennis tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D. and had to lie about my age to enter. I was one year too young. I played a long hard match and beat the other girl. I felt so bad about lying, I sat down on a bench and told God I was sorry and to please give me a sign of what I should do. Immediately it began to rain and the next days tournament was canceled. I went home. We find our answers if we are in tune to His voice. I felt so bad I had lied and vowed I would never ever lie again..

I attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD, from 1954-1957 where I began to become involved in the Theater. I truly enjoyed the atmosphere and it became a wonderful social outlet. I sewed and mended many costumes to help pay my tuition. I met my future husband O. B. Donaldson III , who was also acting in the Theater. He really took a liking to me and claimed me as his own. We were married in 1957 and moved to Fargo where our first daughter, Marion (Annie), was born. With a young baby to care for, I stayed home while Buell worked as a D.J., taught high school English, got a Masters Degree in the Theater, and took 4 years of college ROTC in 3 years. After he joined the military as an Officer, we left the Dakotas for good.
Our 2nd daughter,Mary, was born at Ft. Monmouth, N.J. It was here we bought our first T.V. -1959. Then we were sent to Germany. This was an exciting and yet hard time due to I always wanted to do more, see more, we were in Europe! After a miscarriage, our 3rd daughter , Laura Lee, was born. Now I was home in our small apt. in Stuttgart , Germany with 3 small girls.

Next, we moved to Columbus, GA. Where our 4th child , Sam, was born. I could hardly believe we had our boy! After 3 girls, we had almost given up. It was during this time in our Nation’s history, that J.F.K. and M.L.K. were assassinated. We all thought the world was going mad.

Next, we moved to Augusta, GA. It was at this time my husband was sent to Viet Nam for his first tour of duty. While he was gone, I put a map on the wall of Viet Nam so we could all see where he was. And we prayed.

I began to become involved with some Officer’s Wives events. I was editor of the Officer’s Wives Club paper. I also organized dinners and luncheons, including decorations and entertainment to include 200 people. We all had a common bond. Our husbands were at war.

Every summer, between moves, I would take my children to see family and friends. Either my folks in Flandreau, S.D. , Buell’s sister in St. Paul , MN, Buell’s parents in Tampa, Fl. , or my good friends in Green Cove Springs, FL. Buell’s sister Sally had 5 kids and with my 4 , we always had a good time. One time, on the way to see them we had to out run a tornado while we were in the car. No doppler or weather channel back then. We also made a trip in our station wagon with 3 adults and our 9 kids from St. Paul to Tampa, Fl. to attend Aunt Ruthie Hagan's funeral. That is almost impossible to think of seat belts and all. Being an Army family, I tried to make our yearly moves into an adventure.

We moved to Green Cove Springs, FL. during Buell’s 2nd tour of duty in V.N. He was flying airplanes and helicopters. We prayed even harder. One of my dearest friends lived in Florida, so we kept each other company. Later in life, we especially enjoyed fishing off of her dock at their home on the St. John’s river. She had 5 children whom became friends to my four. Other friends seemed to all gather at the river. The water beckoned me . I was also falling in love with the ocean. It seemed to soothe my soul.

After Buell came home from VN for good, we moved to Alexandria, VA where I worked for Southern Bell as a telephone operator. Then we went to Kansas the next year. I finally got to go back to college! I went to the University of Kansas in Leavenworth form 1970-1971. One class I really liked was – A Survey of African American Studies. I was becoming socially aware.

Then off we went to Indianapolis , IN. I continued my education at Indiana Purdue University 1971-1972. We were in Indianapolis, IN for 3 years – the longest we had lived anywhere. We had a garden and even grew some corn. Buell and I took the family to see our first concert.....The Guess Who. We also had a lot of snow ever year. And Sam loved to dress up and play army man.

Next,we moved to Augusta, Ga. It was here I got another college course in 1974, Criminal Justice. I had accumulated over 160 college hours , but everytime we moved, the new colleges would not transfer some of my classes. But I kept at it. Then somewhere along the way, I started painting. Art became an expression of creation for me. I dearly loved it. Buell and I were also voracious readers. I just loved learning about any and everything.
It was also in Augusta that Buell and I got involved with the theater again. We were involved wit the Augusta Players and the Ft. Gordon Dinner Theater. Besides acting, I ran stage lighting and orchestrated performances of musical groups. I worked closely with managers/owners of local theater groups in Augusta to insure performances were of type and caliber for audiences of each club. And finally , I was able to act as an Assistant Director of a play, "Brighton Beach Memoirs" in 1988.

As in life, as time progressed, the drinking that started out so innocent, ravaged my life to the point I was ready for a change. You see, we all drank back then -- Officers, Officer's wives, theater groups, sitting on the dock, or the seashore. When I realized I didn't have to live a life controlled by the very thing that was taking my life away, I reached for help after my daughter Mary, told me about AA. I have been clean and sober since Feb. 7, 1983.

This new found life full of possibilities lead me to my final career in helping others out of this disease. In Feb. 1989, I became a member of Georgia Addiction Counseling Association and The National Association of Alcoholics and Drug Abuse Counselors. All my life experiences from cradle to grave had seemed to set me as a helper to those who needed to find a way out too. And there will always be those whom God sends our way. We share the Hope we've found.

To my family, reach for the stars, never stop learning, give up what destroys, reach for your God, and above all, as Jesus said, Forgive quickly and Love deeply. This is an extrordinary life we have to share. I love you all and pass these truths to the next generations. All things are possible with God!

Nyla Mae Thoreson Donaldson
She's Quite the Gal
Uff-da! Love you mom, Annie

"A Mother's Love"
Advice you depend on,
courage to try
smiles when you're happy,
hugs when you cry.
Pride in your talents,
warmth and affection,
Memories that give you a special connection.
A great sense of humor,
interests you share,
and, whenever you need her,
just knowing she's there."
Unknown Author