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Marlene Sue Donner

1933 - 2011 Obituary Condolences Gallery
(News article)

HURON, Ohio -- A homemaker and mother who portrayed Pockets in a popular Saturday morning children's television program that aired 18 years, Marlene Sue Donner died Sunday in the Erie County Care Facility. She was 78.

Mrs. Donner, who always went by Sue, had been in the nursing home six years, said Charles Donner, her husband of 55 years. He said she suffered a stroke 12 years ago that left her partially paralyzed and unable to speak and she had undergone procedures for heart problems prior to that.

From 1971 to 1989, she and Bev Schwind were the sister-and-brother rag dolls "Patches and Pockets" on the show of that name on WTOL-TV, Channel 11.

Mrs. Schwind was Patches, a girl rag doll who wore a yellow wig with braids and bangs, a bandana, and patched-up jumper.

Mrs. Donner, in a wig of red yarn portrayed the boy, wearing oversized denim overalls fitted with buttons and many pockets that carried surprises. He put a tennis shoe on his head to help him think and used a ruler to tell time.

Mr. Donner said the show gave his wife the opportunity to do what she enjoyed the most: entertain children.

"She just loved children. She was the Pied Piper to children," he said.

The television production was a spinoff of Bobo and Dodo, a clown act the women developed in the Port Clinton area for parties, birthdays, and other events.

They had teamed up in the 1960s for performances with the theater group Port Clinton Civic Playmaker.

Both lived in Catawba Island, attended the same church, and were raising families.

Building around the Raggedy Anne and Andy rag dolls, they began Patches and Pockets in 1969, wearing outfits they made themselves from clothing, yarn, and items they had at their homes and writing skits geared to children's needs and interests.

The shows were based on experiences from both women's families and ranged from teaching lessons about sharing and helping to obedience. A large toy box was their signature.

"We had a wonderful journey," said Mrs. Schwind, who now lives in Tennessee. "We loved making people laugh."

They performed in the summer of 1971 at the Ottawa County Fair and Ohio State Fair as well as in schools and churches and at holiday parties. Then Mrs. Donner asked officials at Channel 11 if they would be interested in televising their act, Mrs. Schwind said.

The show began airing Saturdays in October, 1971, and was expanded to Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the following year.

They also took their act on the road, performing on television in North Carolina and Texas. Mrs. Schwind said they turned down an offer to perform regularly in California.

"We felt our first obligation was to God and our families and Patches and Pockets was the fun thing to do in our lives. We never really wanted to leave our families," she said. "It was something that we enjoyed doing so much."

The show received a regional Emmy for children's entertainment in 1985. The show was canceled in August, 1989.

However, the rag dolls lived on. Mrs. Schwind and Mrs. Donner contracted with a local company to have Patches and Pocket dolls manufactured in Korea and sold locally. Mrs. Schwind said that after they recouped their costs, the remaining inventory was distributed to children throughout the world through the work of missionaries.

"It was a blessing to us that the dolls extended far beyond where we could go," she said.

Mrs. Donner grew up in Sandusky. She graduated in 1951 from Sandusky High School, and then worked as a switchboard operator for the former Ohio Bell Co. She also did modeling on the side for a department store. The Donners, who had known each other since the fourth grade, were married April 7, 1956.

Surviving are her husband, Charles, son, Scott Donner, daughter, Julie Donner Andersen, and three grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at The Chapel, 4444 Galloway Rd., Sandusky. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday in Groff Funeral Home in Sandusky and 10 a.m. Friday until services. The family requests tributes to The Chapel.
Published in Toledo Blade on June 28, 2011
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