Donna Jean Zwart

Donna Lee Gorney

MONONA – Donna Jean Zwart (nee Berendes) passed away on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, after a long illness.

She was born Jan. 18, 1932, in Dubuque, Iowa to Floyd and Florence “Flossie” (nee Cain) Berendes.

Born and raised in Dubuque, Iowa, Donna was a disciplined and principled child, wife and mother. She was educated at Holy Trinity Elementary School (K-8) and the all-girls Immaculate Conception Academy, graduating in the class of 1950. Donna was a strong supporter of law enforcement, leaving Dubuque right after high school for Washington, D.C. to work for the FBI. She had fond memories of her time there, living with her “chums” and living an exciting life as a single woman in the nation’s capital.

She met the love of her life, Don Zwart, also working at the FBI. During their courtship, she moved back to Dubuque, working as a wedding consultant and clothing buyer for a local department store. Don would visit from Sheboygan, where he served as a police officer with the Sheboygan police department. They were married at Holy Trinity Church on January 22, 1955 and immediately made their home in Sheboygan, starting a family the following year. Once she accepted Don’s marriage proposal, there was no other man in her life though she lived for more than 20 years after his passing. From cradle to the grave, Donna’s life and all she stood for was shaped as a daughter of a deputy sheriff, wife of a police officer and academy instructor, and mother of a Madison police detective.

Her faith was a major part of her life. She was a regular member of various parishes, especially Immaculate Conception in Sheboygan and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Monona, where she raised her children; and St Olaf’s in Deforest, where she lived in retirement until illness forced a move into assisted living. Donna’s faith in the Trinity was strong. She lived a life of appreciation for God’s blessings and certainty that her faith was justified. She was stern with her children and grandchildren as necessary, but always let them know that she loved them and wanted the best for them. She had high expectations and did everything she could to help her family meet them. She also was quick with a laugh and frequently saw the humor in life.

A frequent volunteer at church, Donna prayed daily and took actions to support her prayers and beliefs, taking Christ’s admonition that “faith without works is dead” (John 2:17) to heart in her daily life. She was unfailingly polite and positive, except when she would “get her Irish up,” in which case all bets were off.

Donna is survived by her children, Kari (Dave) Black of Lake Mills, Amie Zwart (Mark Meyskens) of Madison, Kevin (Jeanine) of Madison, Michael of Verona and Mark (Susan) of Monona. She had a special place in her heart for her grandchildren, Sara (Andrew) Poquette, Stephanie (Nicholas) Haen, Amanda Roeske, Daniel (Jennifer) Lutz, Alex Zwart (Sara Hutcheson), Taylor Zwart (Matthew Sutter) and Ryan Zwart, and her five great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Donald John Zwart; her younger brother, Floyd Jr.; her lifelong friend, Rita Bachtell; and a favorite cousin, Viola “Vi” Steffen.
Donna’s family would like to especially thank St. Mary’s Care Center and St. Mary’s hospital, 7th floor SW, and SSM Health at Home Hospice for the excellent care she received during her final illness. They also want to thank Dr. Al Musa for his compassionate care, and the staff members at Heritage Monona that took such good care of her.

Donna’s life will be celebrated with a Catholic Mass at IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY CATHOLIC CHURCH, 5101 Schofield St., Monona, at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. Visitation will be at the church from 9 a.m. until the time of the Mass on Wednesday. She will rest with her husband at Roselawn Mausoleum.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that tribute gifts be made to the Care Center Greatest Need Fund at SSM Health, St. Mary’s Foundation ( Online condolences may be made at

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