Donna Rae Forsgren

OBIT ISL-ForsgrenNANTUCKET — Donna Rae Forsgren, of Nantucket, Mass., formerly of Old Town, died peacefully at home Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, from complications related to brain cancer. She was 81.

Donna was brought up in Saint Cloud, Minn., where her father taught at the University of Minnesota. After graduating with a BA in education, she began teaching elementary school in St. Cloud. One summer, while both were judging a children’s talent show, she met, fell in love and married future professor Rod Forsgren in 1957. They moved to Old Town in 1965 to raise their four children.

Donna had a passion for education and helping others throughout her life. She worked with the founders of Literacy Volunteers in Maine in 1969 and continued with the program for many years. She also was a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL), started in part by the first waves of Vietnamese refugees after the end of the war. After retirement from the University of Maine, they spent time traveling by camper, joining friends they’d made over the years of academic involvement and hosting international exchange students. Donna loved collecting friends and their stories.

Her husband’s teaching schedule allowed for summers of family travel. Donna was that mom-with-it-all in the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser passenger seat, making sandwiches, mediating backseat disagreements and packing/unpacking at every stop. As the children grew, travels were closer to the small town of Frenchboro located off the Maine coast, where the family spent many a spring, summer and fall. In later years, Donna and Rod joined Minnesotan snow birds in Pharr, Texas, where they loved to participate in the Rio Grande Valley dance circuit. They moved to Nantucket in 2003 to be near their daughter Alison, where Donna became a selfless caregiver to her husband during his struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Donna had great empathy and a tremendous gift for making others feel special.

She was predeceased by her husband of 57 years, Roderick Alfred Forsgren, who died Jan. 6, 2014.

She is survived by her children, Diedre L. Forsgren of Richmond, Va., Alison K. Forsgren of Nantucket, Mass., Kurt E. Forsgren and his wife, Patricia Mallett, of Wellesley, Mass., and Tor Eric Forsgren and his partner Lynn Thammavongsa of Lakeville, Minn.; her grandsons Jerico Mele of Miyagi, Japan, Axel, Lars and Beck Forsgren of Wellesley, Andrew Thammavongsa of Chicago, Ill., and Ayden Forsgren of Lakeville, Minn.; and her sisters, Dixie Brown of Kentfield, Calif., and Dawn Lieder of Concord, N.H.

A memorial service was held Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015, at Unitarian Meeting House, 11 Orange St., Nantucket, Mass.

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In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Community Foundation for Nantucket, Nantucket Fund, P.O. Box 204, Nantucket, MA 02554 (

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