Wayne and Donna Grubish

OWATONNA — Wayne J. Grubish passed away on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, at the Benedictine Living Community in Owatonna. He was 87. Donna J. Grubish passed away on Monday, Oct. 11, also at the Benedictine Community. She was 83.

Wayne John Grubish was born May 14, 1934 in Owatonna to Wilfred and Irene (Ringhofer) Grubish. Wayne attended Owatonna Public Schools, where he was active in sports and earned letters in Football, Wrestling and Baseball, and graduated with the OHS Class of 1952. Wayne pursued his love of baseball while pitching for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, and later for the United States Army baseball team. He was a natural "southpaw," and was called to try out with the Washington Senators in the late-1950s. Although he declined the Big League tryout, he went on to play exceptional local ball, pitching for many years with the Owatonna Aces. He remained a baseball and softball fan all his life, and enjoyed hundreds of games both on and off the field. Wayne served in the Military Police while in the United States Army, and was proudly stationed in Washington, D. C.

Donna Jean Fritze was born September 20, 1938, in Owatonna to William and Margaret (Selthun) Fritze. Donna also attended Owatonna Public Schools and graduated with the OHS Class of 1957. Donna was a hard worker all her life - she loved nothing better than working. In her early years, she worked at the State Theater, White's Café and was a telephone operator for Northwestern Bell Telephone along with several of her sisters.

On May 14, 1960, Wayne and Donna were married at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Owatonna. The two were introduced by Donna's boss Wayne White, owner of the former White's Café in downtown Owatonna, and were never apart after that introduction. They were married 61 years, and the only time they were ever apart were the 40 days between their deaths.

Wayne was employed by several well-known companies in Owatonna, including The King Company, Owatonna Public Utilities and 23 years with Owatonna Manufacturing Company. After OMC closed in 1986, he worked for a time at Federated Mutual Insurance, and later joined the team at Cybex, working as a "jack of all trades" and making many friends along the way. He retired in 2009, and worked several additional summer seasons after retirement taking care of plants at the Hy-Vee greenhouse.

Donna was a stay-at-home Mom, and loved raising her children and being active and interested in all their activities. She loved to clean, and was often poked fun at for her meticulously organized cupboards, drawers and closets - where hangers were always a half inch apart and spices were always alphabetized. Donna loved to iron her own family's wrinkled items, including underwear, and often took in male friends' and relatives' dress shirts to "press."

Besides his love of baseball and the Minnesota Twins, Wayne was a fan of both the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Gophers teams. He bowled for many years beside his Dad on the Commercial League in Owatonna. Wayne took up golf after his marriage, and played in several local leagues while his children were young. In 2008 he was inducted into the Owatonna High School Athletic Hall of Fame for his achievements and contributions to high school sport in his home town.

Donna also followed the Minnesota Gophers and Twins, and somewhere along the line became an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers. She kept up a 180 average in the Master's Monday night Bowling League, and participated with her sisters, daughter, niece and many good friends for more than 40 years.

Wayne and Donna were devoted to each other and their kids. You could see them at almost every activity in town - enjoying the Steele County Free Fair, cheering for the win at kids' and grandkids' football, baseball, softball, soccer, wrestling, cheerleading, tennis, dance, lacrosse and golf events; tapping their toes to the marching band or attending their 136th Christmas concert; attending art fairs and science fairs and plays at the Little Theatre - if their kids or grandkid were involved, they were in the audience. Beaming. But more likely, a little misty-eyed and choked-up with pride. Wayne loved music and enjoyed surprising his family and friends periodically with his "musical stylings" of Hank Williams Sr, Willie Nelson and the like. He enjoyed singing karaoke with his kids, grandkids and friends. Donna liked to sing Karaoke too, but had trouble remembering the words, even though they were on the screen. Many laughs were had by family - at her expense - when she froze on stage. But nobody laughed harder than she did at herself.

Wayne rarely missed an opportunity to squire his bride around the dance floor, and the two especially enjoyed the times when an impromptu dance party erupted in the driveway, garage or the middle of the kitchen floor.

Donna is perhaps best known, remembered and loved for her years at the Village Café in Owatonna. Donna never met a stranger, and made friends hard and fast. She had a "birthday book" with hundreds of special birthdays and anniversaries, and friends were always surprised to receive a hand-written card from Donna. She could - and did - wear many hats in the café, from waitress to cook to boss. But the best hat was the baker's hat, and she was loved far and wide for her delicious homemade pies. She knew everyone and all their varied histories. Not because she was nosy, but because she truly cared for everyone she knew.

After the Village Café closed, Donna worked many years at the Gainey Conference Center for the University of St. Thomas as a waitress and dining hostess. She retired in 2008.

Both Wayne and Donna loved a good game of anything, especially involving a deck of cards. While the kids were still at home, the time while dinner was being prepared often included a table-full of kids and a round of Michigan Rummy, UNO or Gin Rummy. But their favorite was Cribbage, and Wayne proudly taught Donna and all his kids to play. Wayne and Donna enjoyed several hands of Cribbage and a cocktail every evening before dinner for more than 40 years.

Wayne was very proud to call Owatonna his "home," and was a 60-year member of the American Legion Post #77 and was a Life Member of the Owatonna Elks Lodge #1395. They were also social member of the Knights of Columbus. In his younger years, Wayne loved to call Bingo at the Elks, the Legion and the Eagles and was a favorite among the regular players for his smooth call. In his later years, he and Donna played bingo locally several times a week with all the special friends they made at the different venues.

Wayne and Donna are survived by five children; Lisa (Randy) Richmond, Peter ("Tootie") Grubish and Steven (Samona) Grubish, all of Owatonna; Lori (Scott) Oeltjenbruns of Johnston IA; Jennifer Van Wyk of Plymouth; and daughter-in-law Margie Grubish of Owatonna. They were blessed with twelve grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. They were preceded in death by their son Tim in 2020.

Wayne was the oldest of four children, and is survived by his sisters Carol Diedrich of Owatonna, and Jane (George) Slicho of Rochester. Donna was the youngest of seven children, and is survived by her sister Doris Lea of Blooming Prairie; brother Merlin Fritze (Dorothy Barfield) of Peoria, AZ; and brother-in-law Harold "Mully" Mullenmeister of Austin. They will both be missed by many special nieces and nephews, former teammates, co-workers and thousands of friends they knew, cherished and enjoyed in their 61 years together.

Together, they were also preceded in death by Wayne's brother Dennis (Susie) and brother-in-law Ron Diedrich; Donna's sisters Jeanette Mullenmeister, Arlene (Orville) Utpadel, Wilma (Eugene "Dave") Chappuis and Mildred (Warren "Shelly") Peterson, brother-in-law Marvin "Mike" Lea, a granddaughter and two nephews.

The Grubish Family wishes to thank Wayne and Donna's entire Care Team at Owatonna Clinic, Owatonna Hospital, St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, and most recently, both the Benedictine Living Community (formerly KODA) and the angels at Owatonna Hospice for their very special end-of-life care.

Memorials would be appreciated by the Owatonna Foundation and the District 761 Foundation.

A "Celebration of Lives" will be held from 3-7 pm on Saturday, Nov. 6 at the Owatonna Country Club. There will be a short program at 5 pm. For more information or to leave an online condolence message go to www.megercares.com

To plant a tree in memory of Donna Grubish as a living tribute, please visit Tribute Store.

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