1923 - 2013
It was a bloody good life:
Dona Little Wolf was born to Jack and Margaret Corner in Wychitella,
Victoria, Australia on March 8, 1923.
Jack, so happy to have his first child, stopped at a few pubs on his way to
town to register Dona’s birth so that by the time he arrived at City Hall
it was March 10. Jack reckoned that birthdate was as good as any.
Dona had three sisters, Joy McLaughlin, Aileen Frost and Joanne
Corner, all of whom preceded her in death.
Dona was a tomboy, being the son Jack never had. Her dad taught her to
ride, shoot, build fence, gamble and smoke.
Much of her early life was encompassed by the Depression and hard
times. At about the age of 14 Dona left school to be a seamstress, a trade for
which she had a talent and a knack for knowing how that stayed with her.
During WWII, Dona met Earl Reynolds, a merchant marine, at a party
in Melbourne. A romance blossomed and they were married via short wave
radio in 1946. Dona and Earl had a son, Garry Lee Reynolds. Jack and Margret
took Earl and Dona with baby Garry on board to the outback where
they spent many months building fence. They lived in tents, bathed in the
rivers with the water snakes and crocs, had nighttime visits from the wild
boars and water buffalo and ate a lot of kangaroo stew. After that, Dona,
Earl and Garry moved to the United States and set up house in Pocatello,
Idaho. She and Earl divorced a few years later. Earl and Garry remained
in Idaho. Today Garry is an attorney in Hermiston, Oregon and a retired
Circuit Court Judge
Upon her return to Australia, Dona opened a dressmaking shop. Before long, she had a large
clientele: society matrons, debutantes, brides and some
dandies all came through her door. Dona said her
best customers, however, were the working girls as they paid in cash, never came back for
alterations and always left a good tip.
In 1956, Dona attended a dinner dance in Melbourne. The guest of honor
was Big Chief Little Wolf, a Navaho Indian, and internationally known
heavyweight wrestler and showman. Everyone in Oz was excited over his
arrival. Fate (perhaps) seated Dona at Chief ’s table. He asked Dona to dance
and … They married and in due course had a daughter, Markeeta Little
Wolf. (Although Chief had been married twice before, Markeeta was his
only child. He said until he met Dona he had just been “shooting blanks”.)
Chief ran a Wild West show that toured New Zealand and Australia.
Dona handled the money and managed the talent. Each night the Chief
would ask the audience if they wanted to meet “my big, fat squaw?” The
crowd greeted this question with great enthusiasm but when the spotlight
hit Dona, they gasped. Neither big or fat, Dona entered in full Indian buckskin,
head band and feather, all in a gorgeous size six. Dona rode the trick
pony, assisted the knife thrower by being on the target to miss end, and if the
snake charmer called in sick well, she knew her way around a python too.
In 1958 Chief had a massive, incapacitating stroke and, never worked
again. With a nine month old baby, a new home, a mortgage and an invalid
husband to support it was up to Dona. Dona, even though she had no restaurant
experience bought a van on credit and converted it into a mobile
hamburger stand. Dona worked that wagon (“hard yakka,” she called it) at
auctions, moved it to Barwon Heads Beach each summer for six weeks and
the rest of the time had a permanent spot outside a blue collar, Melbourne
pub on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays, where she witnessed more than a
few fights—fists, bottles and knives. Dona worked her hamburger van for
ten years. Throughout this time, she took care of Chief and raised Markeeta.
During that same period Dona began modeling fashions and had a very
successful career of it in print, on the runway and in television commercials.
Along the way, Markeeta, became a professional singer and she wanted
to go to the USA to further her career. Dona had taken on yet another role
as her daughter’s manager, chaperone, financial advisor and best friend.
Chief ’s health declined further and he wanted to return to the United States
to die. The family moved to this country in 1980, Chief passing away in
1982 in Seattle.
Dona and Markeeta went on to call Los Angeles their home. She continued
to make Markeeta’s stage costumes ( think Liberace meets Cher in
the Wild West). They lived in North Hollywood in a triplex. The other tenants
told Dona the landlord was “great”, just pay your rent on time, and you
won’t see him. However, one Sunday morning
Dona noticed a distinguished Italian man
walking around the building. She asked if he
needed help. He said, “I’m Rudy Caprio. I own
this place”. The two shook hands and that was the
end of the phantom landlord. Mr. Caprio visited his property
frequently after that perhaps with the hope of “bumping
into” the lady with the charming accent and saucy attitude. A
Saturday morning inspection and leaving a bag of lox and bagels
Dona’s stoop lead eventually to her marriage with Rudy in 1986
(her third, for those counting).
In 1993 after the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, Dona, Rudy and Markeeta
decided to get the hell out of Dodge. Pointing at random, they found
Waitsburg on the map. Dona and Markeeta bought residential property and
moved to that City while Rudy bought a home in Dayton. Although Dona
and Rudy lived apart, mostly, the two remained devoted to each other until
Rudy’s death in 2001.
Dona soon became well known and accepted, generally, in the farming
community of Waitsburg. Never afraid to speak her mind, put her hand in
her pocket for a group of kids without money for the pool, donate to Leroy
Cunningham’s “Paint the Town” project or enjoy a glass of Baileys at the
Bullseye, she was a beloved oddity.
Dona ended her days at Eagle Springs Memory Care Unit in a state of
pleasant confusion, surrounded by the caring staff she called “her angels”.
Dona was beautiful, witty, talented, outrageous and bold. She loved her
family and enjoyed life.
Always funny. Always elegant. Always welcoming.
Dona Little Wolf is survived by her son Garry Lee Reynolds and his wife,
Sheila. Her daughter Markeeta Little Wolf and her husband Michael V Hubbard.
Her grandchildren Andrew Reynolds and his wife, Kendra. Beth Earl
and her husband, Derek. Timothy Reynolds and his wife, Agnus. Jill Wooley
and her husband, Mark. Mary Karlson and her husband, Ryan. Emily Hubbard
Hubbard and her husband, Chris Hubbard. Miles Hubbard and his
beloved, Stephanie Thomas. Henry Hubbard and his fiancé Kyla Winger.
Twenty five great grand children and three more waiting in the wings.