Donna M. Mitchell, 29; loved family, friends and Friends
She saved the ribbons.
Blue and red, first and second place, they are some markers of Donna M. Mitchell's life that her mother, Joanne, cherishes. Donna won them during countless afternoons spent swimming or doing other things as a little girl at the Fall River YMCA.
"She made me very proud," her mother says.
When Donna grew up, other things made her mother proud.
Donna, 29, didn't have to make Thanksgiving dinner for the guests each year at the Best Western hotel in Fall River where she worked.
But she did.
"With all the trimmings," boasts her mother.
She didn't have to take in a stray cat found at a warehouse where a friend worked.
And she didn't have to stop at a Swansea bakery on Sundays to pick up a slice of lemon-meringue pie for her mother.
"She would always do things like that. She was very generous."
Joanne shared her memories of a little girl, a teenager, and a woman who sometimes held down two jobs to take care of her kids.
As a child growing up in Swansea, Donna had plenty of guests.
"We had sleep-overs," said Joanne. "I would call home and she'd say, 'Can [a friend] stay for supper?' She always had friends over. This continued throughout her school years."
Donna enjoyed gymnastics. And she was a cheerleader at Joseph Case High School in Swansea, from which she graduated in 1991.
Donna wasn't into sports much, but she grew to love football. Defying geography, she was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Donna also liked Boston Bruins hockey.
Donna, who moved to Fall River, grew to have five or six close friends in her 20s. During summers, they would make pilgrimages to Virginia Beach to catch some rays.
She loved to watch the television show Friends. Sometimes, she would go to a cousin's place in Franklin, Mass., for a Friends night.
Other times, Donna would go to local bingo events, such as ones at St. Anne's Church, Fall River, with her mother.
Donna had two daughters, Brooklyn and Joslynn Belanger. She wanted them to be part of a family and planned to marry Robert Feeney of Fall River next year.
Feeney, who was critically injured in the fire,
-- Michael P. McKinney, Providence Journal staff
Published in The Providence Journal on Mar. 20, 2003