Posted on August 22, 2022 at 12:24 PM by Cade Cameron
Mrs. E.P. Willey, more universally known as Donna, and to many of her 4-H girls as “Aunt Donna”, began as a 4-H member for 11 years. The Chelsea Challengers 4-H Club was founded in 1948, and in the fall of 1949, just a few months after her marriage to E.P. Willey, Donna became the leader of the Chelsea Challengers which would continue to be a priority in her life for 28 years until she had to leave it behind when the family moved.
Girls 4-H club activities in those days included sewing, making clothes, including their 4-H uniforms, home furnishings, canning, cooking, and other activities with each year of club activities focused on particular projects.
As the years passed and the club grew, the Willey house was the location for countless meetings, demonstration practices, Mother-Daughter tea parties and achievement shows.
At the close of the 1951 club year, Donna had to leave Tama County as her husband E.P., who was in the Air Force, was assigned to an Air Force base in Mississippi. Even though 1000 miles away, Donna kept in touch with the club and the girls, and returned to resume as the club leader in May of 1952. In January of 1953, Donna was selected to attend the State 4-H Leader’s Day at Ames. This was an important honor and further enhanced Donna’s skill and enthusiasm as a 4-H leader.
Along the way the club earned numerous honors for county and state fair ribbons, “Best Groomed Girl” competitions, Champion Jelly Maker of Tama County, Style Shows and baking contests. Donna was a 4-H leader of the Chelsea Challengers for 28 years, receiving the Silver, Gold and Diamond Clover awards and the Iowa State Alumni Award in 1975.
When E.P. and Donna’s son Jim was old enough to join the Salt Creek Settlers, E.P. joined as a leader. E.P. guided the club when it was needed but let the youth find their own way when they needed to learn from it. Youth never knew in those days how lucky they were to have the leadership skills taught to them in subtle ways as they learned from wise leaders.
Donna passed away in 2004 and E.P. in 2009. Record books, sleepless nights completing projects for county fair, the thrill of being selected to have your project go to state fair; it was more than a club or learning skills, it was a way of life for the Willey family.
It is an honor to have this couple inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame! Thank you E.P. and Donna Willey for your dedication to the youth of Tama County.