Once again here at Hodges we have had the privilege of making a special plaque that has a very extraordinary story behind it. This time, however, the plaque is being dedicated to a woman’s life that was sadly taken too soon.
Donna V. Combra was married to Russ Combra and had two sons, Andrew and Brian. She was an elementary school teacher for 30 years of her life. She began her teaching career at the Cluny School in Newport RI, then taught at the Hathaway School, Elmhurst School, and ended her career teaching the second grade at Melville Elementary School, all located in Portsmouth RI.
Donna was one of a kind. She devoted her life to educating children and was a great role model to them. But Donna also had many other passions and an incredibly active lifestyle. She loved to read books of all kinds and write stories and poetry. She was a fantastic cook and baker, her claim to fame being her “Hershey’s Chocolate Cake” and “Pistachio Cake”. When the seasons changed and it was warm enough outside you could find Donna riding her bike along Middle Road in Portsmouth heading to Newport to visit her mom. Donna also had professional knitting and sewing skills that she learned from her aunt when she was younger. She mainly knit children’s sweaters, but could make anything. She loved the ocean and spent countless hours at McCorrie Point Beach in Portsmouth RI and Second Beach in Middletown RI where a lot of her knitting was done. She also enjoyed swimming, kayaking, walking and traveling with her family.
After speaking about all of Donna’s hobbies, we still have not mentioned her biggest passion in life, her family and friends. Donna’s husband Russ and one of her best friends Eileen were kind enough to share all this information about Donna with us. Eileen also shared a few words that she believed described Donna, “kind, creative, daring, funny, positive, loving, loyal, honest, genuine, generous, brave, grateful, patient, happy and optimistic. All these qualities made her an amazing teacher and a wonderful friend”. Eileen’s words made it clear how much she cherished the time she had with Donna.
Russ spoke of how good of a mother Donna was. Her priority was always her family and she raised both her sons to have the loving personality that she did. Russ also shared how kind she was to the elderly, even taking time to frequently pack lunches and visit her older aunts and uncles to have lunch with them. One of the most heart warming parts of Donna’s life that Russ shared was that she used to volunteer at the Soup Kitchen in Bristol RI without telling anyone because she never looked for recognition for her good deeds. Donna’s humbleness is just a portion of her gracious character. Russ spoke with all of his heart when he said she was “an outstanding wife, a great mom, and my best friend”. It is evident that those who knew Donna were all given a special gift that can never be replaced.
Tears came to both Russ and Eileen’s eyes as they saw the plaque for the first time and felt that it was a beautiful representation of Donna and her spirit. Watching their reactions to seeing the plaque was nothing short of amazing. But, watching the way Russ and Eileen lit up as they spoke about Donna was miraculous. The love that Donna’s family and friends emanate for her is something so special and rare in this world.
The plaque is 18” x 24” in size, UV processed in full color on aluminum and also includes a photo of Donna. It is going to be hung over the entrance of the Melville School Library, soon to be known as the Donna V. Combra Library. To Donna’s Family and Friends, we could not be more honored to have made this plaque for a woman that was so humble about her accomplishments and influenced children for 30 years. She truly deserves to be recognized for all that she was.