Deirdre ‘DeeDee’ Elmyra O’Donnell

Deirdre ‘DeeDee’ Elmyra O’Donnell

MADISON–Deirdre “DeeDee” Elmyra O’Donnell was born on Feb. 11, 1940, and was greeted by her parents, George and Ruby O’Donnell in Heaven on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014, Thanksgiving Day.

At birth, DeeDee was oxygen deprived resulting in severe intellectual and physical challenges. She shared a happy life with her CENTRAL WISCONSIN CENTER FOR THE DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED (CWC) COMMUNITY OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS. The most important role DeeDee played in this Community was to inspire parental advocacy, which led to the planning and realization of CWC. DeeDee had an extraordinary capacity to bring out the best in people.

Her life situation motivated her parents, George and Ruby O’Donnell, Alice and Fred Gee and Art and Margaret Aylward to tirelessly advocate for this community home, so that people of similar interests and needs have also been able to live their fullest lives. George and Ruby were a driving force in establishing VOR, and the Wisconsin Parents Coalition, which are organizations supporting persons with intellectual challenges. Kevin and Rebecca Underwood continue to be strong and tireless leaders in the WPCR. Because of excellent care in a positive environment, DeeDee has remained a happy, gentle, contented spirit, throughout her life, at her home, CWC. Her happy smile brought warmth to every gathering and community outing, such as pontoon boat rides, picnics in the park, eating ethnic themed meals, time with her foster grandmother and shopping.

A favorite activity was to attend string quartet concerts with her Mother. Kind and understanding musicians from the Madison Symphony Orchestra come out to CWC on a regular basis to perform for the enjoyment of the residents, staff and families. This event is referred to as Heartstrings and is a wonderful gift to residents. Many people have complimented DeeDee on her optimistic approach to life, despite chronic conditions, pain, and enduring necessary medical procedures.

Even during her last days, she was a patient teacher. DeeDee has gone through the death experience with two of her young resident care technicians, who will now have new skills and confidence in coping with, and giving care to, residents when it is their time to pass.

DeeDee’s entire family wishes to express their enormous gratitude to all CWC employees, for loving, and highly competent care givers; unconditional love; individual consideration, and human kindness shown to DeeDee and all of the residents of CWC.

We also would like to thank the University of Wisconsin Hospital Palliative Care Unit for helping DeeDee die with dignity, comfort, compassion and respect, just like all of us would wish, for ourselves and our loved ones. We also appreciate that CWC and UWH administrators are willing to work together, allowing CWC staff to support DeeDee while staying at UWH, so that her familiar and loved caretakers could be with her in her final days.

She was preceded in death by her parents, George O’Donnell and Ruby Rule O’Donnell. DeeDee is survived by her brother, Robert O’Donnell (Ann), and her sister, Mary O’Donnell. A Celebration of DeeDee’s Life will be held at CENTRAL WISCONSIN CENTER FOR THE DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED, 317 Knutson Dr., Madison, Murphy Hall — West Gathering Room #127, at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. DeeDee’s family and friends would appreciate memorials made to VOR, an organization that supports people with needs like DeeDee’s. VOR, 836 S. Arlington Heights Road #351, Elk Grove Village, Ill. 60007. Online condolences may be made at

Gunderson East
Funeral & Cremation Care
5203 Monona Dr.
(608) 221-5420