Donna Jean (Baier) Cramer, 83, of Chatfield, MN passed away peacefully on October 13, 2022. Donna was born on January 6, 1939 to Louie A. Baier Jr. and Mildred (Drinkall) Baier in Chatfield, MN. She was raised on the family farm, located in west Chatfield, which was the home of her parents, grandparents Louie Sr. and Bertha Baier, and great grandparents Frank and Wilhelmina Baier, who purchased the land after immigrating from Germany in the mid-1800s. Frank and Wilhelmina owned and operated Chatfield’s first meat locker alongside farming.
Donna’s parents began working the farm with horses. She loved riding her favorite work horse, Tony, throughout the countryside. Donna walked one mile to country school, rain or snow, prior to transferring to Chatfield Public Schools in eighth grade where she would remain through graduation. In 1956, she married her high school sweetheart Merlin. Together they raised four children: Daniel, Cindy, Michael, and Brian.
Donna and Merlin owned and operated Cramer Welding and Mfg. alongside a full service gas station and carwash, all purchased from Merlin’s father William Cramer in 1970. Donna worked endlessly at the gas station pumping gas, checking oil, and selling pizza, sandwiches, soda, and other goodies from the convenience store. Donna also tended the books for the three businesses but still found time to care for her children and grandchildren.
Donna hosted countless gatherings at the family farm which she and her husband became fourth generation owners of in 1977. Her memories of riding horseback, working as a farmhand, and fishing with her grandfather were accompanied by new memories of cookouts with her family who roasted wieners and enjoyed her legendary potato salad and lemon meringue pies.
Donna shared her love of baking with her grandchildren who helped design and bake a custom cake for each of their birthdays as well as cookies each year at Christmas. She and Merlin traveled throughout Europe, Hawaii, Alaska, and many other states after selling the businesses to their son Mike in 1998. They enjoyed sightseeing and attending polka festivals throughout the Midwest where Donna expressed her love of music and dance.
This love stemmed from her father Louie Jr. who played fiddle in a five piece band called Earl’s Harmonizers, which Donna had the pleasure of hearing in dance halls throughout southeast Minnesota. Donna played and taught piano to her grandchildren and later carried on the performing tradition by playing accordion, accompanied by her son and grandson, at regional nursing homes. Donna was a den leader for several years, a volunteer at St. Mary’s Ladies Division, Vice President of the Founders which is a fundraising committee for Chosen Valley Care Center, and a volunteer for Meals on Wheels.
Donna is survived by her sons Dan Cramer of Omaha, Mike (Vicki) Cramer of Chatfield and Brian (Mariann) Cramer of Owatonna, her brother Kenneth Baier of Zumbrota, brother-in-law Bob (Gloria) Cramer of Oregon, brother in law Jim Thieke of Elgin, sister-in-law Jane Cramer of Ohio, son in law KC Reed of Rochester, 13 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren, as well as several nieces and nephews. Donna was preceded in death by her husband Merlin Cramer, daughter Cindy Reed, her parents, and sister Verna Thieke. A funeral mass will be held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Chatfield, MN on Tuesday, October 25 at 11:00 AM. Visitation will be at St. Mary’s prior to the funeral at 9:30 AM.
Riley Funeral Home & Cremation Service is assisting the Cramer family with arrangements. Online condolences are welcome at rileyfuneralhomes.com