Yukon woman’s legacy endures

Donelda Wheatley fondly remembered for contributions to Yukon

John and Donelda Wheatley with their sons Matt (left) and Newt (right) in the early 1980s. Matt Wheatley leads the private law practice on Main Street that his father started more than 60 years ago when the family moved to Yukon. (Photo provided)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

Donelda Wheatley’s vast contributions to Yukon will be noticed for many decades to come across this city.

Wheatley, who passed away March 6 at age 96, was known as a Yukon civic leader, benefactor and volunteer for various causes.

Her legacy will endure through her gifts of five “Art in the Park” bronze statues that people enjoy seeing at several City of Yukon parks and buildings.

Billie Donelda (Doni) Wheatley

Billie Donelda (Doni) Wheatley was a longtime member of Yukon’s Ladies Library Club and Friends of the Library.

“If there was a job to be done, she’d do it,” said Sara Schieman, head librarian at the Mabel C. Fry Public Library. “Donelda truly loved the library. We were so lucky because we loved her as much as she loved us.”

She was a tiny ball of fire who would always help at book sales that benefitted Yukon’s library.

“Donelda was a super-hard worker and super-dedicated,” Schieman said. “And she did more than raise money for us – she was an avid reader. She was in here constantly checking out materials. Always reading. Always expanding her world.”

Wheatley was “so much fun … such a hoot,” the Yukon librarian added.

“Donelda could always make you laugh,” Schieman said. “She was always a bright spot in my day.”

Inside the Mabel C. Fry Library foyer is a statue of a little boy reading that Donelda Wheatley and her husband John donated in loving memory of their late son Newt.

The Wheatley’s also donated a statue in memory of Newt of a young ballplayer in front of the Yukon Community Center.

In all, Donelda Wheatley contributed five bronze statues to Yukon. These other three were donated through the Friends of the Park:

  • A little boy with a fishing pole on the west side of Mulvey Pond at Yukon City Park.
  • A little girl with flowers in the butterfly garden at Kimbell Park.
  • Two children reading on a bench in the Canal area at Chisholm Trail Park.
Yukon’s Emmalynn Anderson, 11; Zachary Anderson, 9; and Violet Anderson, 7; read books beside a bronze statue that John and Donelda Wheatley donated to the Mabel C. Fry Public Library in memory of their late son Newt. Donelda Wheatley was a longtime Yukon library volunteer and supporter. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)


Former Yukon Parks & Recreation Director Jan Scott called Wheatley a special friend both to her and YPR.

“Donelda was so full of energy,” Scott said. “She volunteered for events and supported our many bake sales which benefitted the parks.

“She was always quick with a call to express her enjoyment of all our events and activities.”

Yukon Friends of the Library members in October 2021 accept a proclamation declaring “Friends of Libraries Week” in the City of Yukon: From left, Donelda Wheatley, Sue Kilmer, Susie Grimes, and Mayor Shelli Selby. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

Scott recalled when Wheatley would bring her young granddaughter Alex to the YPR’s summer Friday Fun Days.

“I still remember the two of them at the Annual Kids Dog Show with Alex’s cute puppy all dressed up in a costume,” Scott shared.

“Donelda was a wonderful example of someone who loved life, people and fun. The Yukon community will miss her and the example she left for the city.”

Besides her support of Yukon’s parks and library, Wheatley volunteered for the Redlands Community College Board of Regents, Yukon Mobile Meals, Yukon Art League, and American Cancer Society.

She was highly involved in her sons’ schools, and with Yukon’s First Christian Church.

Donelda and John Wheatley moved with their sons Newt and Matt to Yukon in 1962, when John established a private law practice in his hometown. John Wheatley was the Yukon school board attorney for many years.

More than 60 years later, son Matt Wheatley leads the law office in downtown Yukon.

A memorial service for Donelda Wheatley was March 11 at Yanda & Son Funeral Home, Yukon. Interment followed at the Yukon Cemetery.

Yukon’s Donelda Wheatley donated this statue to Yukon Friends of the Park, in memory of husband John and son Newt. One of five “Art in the Park” bronze statues she gave to Yukon, this one stands in the butterfly garden at Kimbell Park. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)


Yukon’s Lynda Ramsey first met Donelda Wheatley in the mid-1980s, and a close friendship developed.

“She was like a mother to me, truly,” said Ramsey, her voice cracking. “We had so much fun together over the years.

“She gave me so much strength. She was always praising me, no matter what.”

Both were attending a dinner party at George Ramey’s house when “Doni” invited Ramsey to join a group of eight women who played tennis at the Woodlake Racquet Club.

“I was the ‘baby’ of the group, and they took me under their arms,” Ramsey recounted. “We’d play every week. We always had so much fun.”

The women would celebrate birthdays and Christmas together and come to the Wheatley house to play cards.

Ramsey, Wheatley and other members of the tennis group traveled several times to Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, and places in Oklahoma.

“Doni and I shared a love of animals,” Ramsey added. “I took her over one time to adopt an animal at the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter. She wanted another dog and knew I’d help her find one.”

The two women also shared a love of art and reading.

They’ve visit art galleries during their trips to Santa Fe and Breckenridge.

“We’d go over to Ernestine Limestall’s and make things for the Yukon Art League,” Ramsey related. “Doni and I liked some of the same books to read.

“She brought me into the Ladies Library Club as well.”

Wheatley even taught Ramsey how to knit.

“I loved her so much; she was very special to me in many ways,” Ramsey shared. “She gave me a lot, and I learned a lot from her too.”

Wheatley instilled an appreciation of art through the bronze sculptures she gave to Yukon’s parks and library.

“I think Yukon will really miss Doni, not really realizing how much she’s contributed,” said Ramsey, a former Yukon school board and Canadian County excise board member. “She needs to be recognized as a special citizen who left a lot to be remembered.

“There needs to be a ‘Doni Wheatley Day’ in Yukon.”