Those who were lucky enough to know Donald Bladen understood his reverence for his Lord and Savior. Throughout his life, he leaned on the wisdom that God would always provide for him during any challenge. Faithful, content, and grateful for the countless blessings in his life, Donald was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend to many. With many small acts of love and large acts of sacrifice, he leaves behind a rich collection of memories for his special friends and family to cherish forever.
Reflecting on the 1920s, it was an ever-changing period of time in history. Lawrence Allen and Elsie Margret (Spivey) Bladen welcomed home their newborn son, Donald Lee, on a rainy Saturday night, November 16, 1929, in Madison, Indiana. Born one of eleven biological children and one adopted as an infant, his birth was celebrated with great joy.
A life of hard work and a strong foundation of faith began through the loving examples of his parents. His father worked as a carpenter and a Jefferson County Jail Chaplain and his mother was a wonderful homemaker. For a majority of their time they lived along the Ohio River in Madison yet also lived in Saluda Township just sixteen miles southwest of town. There was never a dull moment in the Bladen household. In between the normal sibling squabbles, they enjoyed playing Chinese Checkers, completing jigsaw puzzles, and playing a wide variety of childhood games such as Kick the Can, Mother May I, and Hide-n-Seek. Active and always on the go, he joined his high school cheerleading team and enjoyed boxing. He graduated with the Class of 1949 from Madison High School and then set off for a year at Frankfort Pilgrim College.
Good with his hands, Donald found his passion however at the local technical trade schools. He proudly served during the Korean War as a Corporal in the United States Army along the Pacific Ocean at San Luis Obispo, California. While working for General Motors in Marion, Indiana, he relocated his family to Michigan and attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College where he obtained specialized training in blueprinting and tool and die. He also completed training in 2005 for a professional Locksmithing certification. It was clear that Donald enjoyed learning as he worked tirelessly to expand his knowledge over his lengthy career.
Not to be forgotten or overshadowed, was the meeting of his lovely bride, Wayva Jane King. He originally met her when she was a young child, yet many years later they rekindled their friendship at Madison Wesleyan Church at an afternoon service. He was struck by her beauty, her commitment to her faith, as well as her extraordinary singing voice. She often sang at revival meetings with his sister, Betty. A true gentleman, Donald asked for her hand in marriage and although her mother, Annette was originally in favor, she later declined their wishes. Wayva was just sixteen at the time yet he knew she was the one, so they traveled to another county, lied about her age, and eloped. After their marriage in Carrollton, Kentucky, on April 14, 1952, they stopped at Aunt May’s Cafe and had ice cream! He always said Wayva was his greatest strength. Together, they birthed eight remarkable children of their own and helped raise and love countless “adopted” children.
Donald and Wayva always put God first and family second. Strong believers, they demonstrated their love of God in their daily lives through generous actions and ministering at various churches. Donald was a strong provider for the family he loved. It often tore at his heart to leave the kids and spend the entire day away from them. They always had pets including a cow, cats, and dogs. A true testimony of the love for his family was welcoming the births of his great-grandchildren, ensuring to count each finger and toe. He also treasured watching their reactions on Christmas morning and doting on his beloved wife with bouquets of carnations after work on Fridays. He and Wayva taught their children the values of accepting others and putting God first, as well as many important life skills. They wanted nothing more than to share in their many successes.
In 1993, he retired from General Motors, after thirty-five years. With the abundance of time, Donald took advantage of every opportunity. He was always willing to help with any project and loved spending time with his family. To celebrate his retirement, he bought a customized Chevy G20 Conversion van so he and Wayva could travel. His grandchildren remember going on many trips with him as well as the small fender benders that seemed to be attracted to the van. To keep him busy after retirement, Donald delivered flowers for Parklane Florist. He also worked for McDonald's, The Lock Master, and founded The Keyman LLC. Donald enjoyed daily walks and his close companionship with his dog, Chance, after Wayva passed away. The two of them had a special bond. Donald normally made an entire pot of tea in the mornings, which he drank throughout the day. In his life, he took to drinking coffee. His normal routine was a cup of coffee and a banana at home then he would venture off to McDonald’s for a cup of decaf with 2 cream and 2 sugars (exact, no more no less). Sharp and witty, he liked to work on puzzles, crosswords, and Sudoku. He thoroughly enjoyed reading also. Donald also loved to be outdoors enjoying a day of fishing with his children and grandchildren, tending to his garden, and traveling with his family.
Although his life was filled with work, family, and many simple pleasures, he always put his work with his church community as his top priority. He loved going to camp meetings and listening to the quartets sing and practiced his prayerful lifestyle without reservation. Whenever someone had wronged him, he always prayed for them and trusted in God’s mercy. Donald was always there for others. He modeled being a good listener, supporter, and selfless in his approach. Donald had a heart for helping others and chose his words carefully. Humble, selfless, and loving, there is no doubt he will be deeply missed by all those who knew and loved him.
Donald was preceded in death by his parents, Lawrence and Elsie Bladen, his beloved wife Wayva, his daughter Tonja (infancy), 4 brothers, 3 sisters, 7 brothers-in-law, 5 sisters-in-law, nephews, and a niece.
He is survived by 7 children: Paul (Barbara) Bladen, Ken (Beverly) Bladen, Jeffery (Cindy) Bladen, LaDonna (Phillip) Brunow, Stefan (Sallie) Bladen, Lydia (Robert) Raines, and Tamita (Richard) Lee, 24 grandchildren, 38 great-grandchildren (with 3 on the way), 3 sisters, 1 brother, 5 sisters-in-law, 2 brothers-in-law, and several nieces and nephews.
In accordance with Donald’s wishes a public visitation will be held on Thursday, March 25, 2021 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Homes Rupert-Durham Chapel, 409 S. Main Street, Vicksburg, MI. A graveside service will be held at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, March 26, 2021 at Vicksburg Cemetery in Vicksburg, MI.
While visiting Donald’s tribute page please take a moment to light a candle or share a memory with the family. The Bladen family is being assisted by McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Homes Rupert-Durham Chapel, 409 S. Main Street, Vicksburg, MI 49097. 269-649-1697.