DONNA BUXTON PRONKO HISTORY

 Lisle Buxton and Frances Hall came from a long line of pre-revelutionay  English descendants and met in SD, USA where they married.  After farming,  they  decided to homestead in Southern Alberta, Canada and crossed the border in 1910. Cyrus  Solon was born on 6 April 1909, in Chance, Perkins County, SD and crossed the border with his parents and three other children who were born in SD .  The Buxtons first moved to Jenner, Alberta and then later to the Consort/Veteran area to farm.

 Carl Arvid Soderberg, known as Charley, had emigrated from Sweden for economic reasons and settled in Two Harbors, Mn, USA.  He met Bertha Maria Bergren, who arrived with other members of her family from Sweden and they married in Two Harbors on Aug. 17, 1907.   Carl’s surname had been Johansson but it was such a common name in Minnesota that he changed it to Soderberg.   It may have been his mother’s surname.     Bertha’s name was anglicized from Barta Berggren.   After farming for a while in SD, they decided to homestead in Southern Alberta, Canada and crossed the border in 1909. Mabel their first child was born in Two Harbors, Mn on 13 April 1908 and crossed the border with her parents when they moved to the Consort/Veteran area to farm.

The Sodergergs eventually had 4 daughters and the Buxton’s eventurally had three  girls and four boys. One of the boys, Cyrus Buxton, fell in love with Mabel Soderberg and they eloped to Hanna, Alberta and married on 2 December 1932. Later Paul Buxton, who had also been born in SD, married Irma Soderberg. The two brothers with their brides began to live in their own homes and farmed for a living in the Consort/Veteran area. Their children would be double cousins. Prior to Cyrus and Mabel’s marriage, Mabel had attended Normal School (teacher’s training) in Edmonton and became a certified teacher in the province of Alberta.

Cyrus and Mabel’s first  child, born in 1934,  was a boy who they named Carlisle after the grandfathers’ first names. Donna was born in August, 1936. Both of them were born at home with Bertha Soderberg acting as midwife. The third child was a girl which they named Marjore. She was the first of their children to be born in a hospital.

 

The home in which Carlisle and Donna were born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna at the age of 9 months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna at the age of 2 1/2 years with her brother Carlisle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna on the Veteran farm in 1940

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around 1940, a drought hit southern Alberta. Paul and Cyrus decided to move to homesteads northwest of Edmonton in the town of Mayerthorpe, Alberta. Bertha and Carl Soderberg joined them later when they retired from farming. The remaining Buxton’s decided to stay and ride out the drought.

First Paul  moved and began building a house in 1941 with the help of Cyrus. When that was completed, Cyrus built one for his family with the help of Paul. The Cyrus Buxton family moved to Mayerthorpe in 1942 when Carlisle, Donna, and Marjore were 8, 6, 4 years old, respectively. Paul and Cyrus each had a 1/4 section which was about 160 acres. (1/4 sq mile 1/2 mile on a side). They sold parts of it as the years went by. In order to farm in Mayerthorpe, they had to clear the woods. It involved a lot of root picking and stump removal in order to make the land suitable for growing crops.

Cyrus and Mabel had a 3rd daughter, Annabel,  born in 1945.

 

A view of the Cyrus family home in Mayerthorpe. This picture was taken during a visit by John and Donna in 1964. By this time the home had been sold. Paul’s family lived in a home up the road to the left.

 

 

 

An early view of the backyard from the upstairs window of Donna’s home.

 

 

 

Tragedy struck the Cyrus Buxton family in1952. While at a picnic on the banks of the McLeod river, Carlisle drowned while swimming. The picnic was a celebration of Carlisle’s  high school graduation.

 

 

 

Donna feeding the chickens. (Circa 1953)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul and Irma’s two daughters, Eunice and Sandra, were close friends of the Cyrus Buxton girls.  Eunice was 1 year younger than Donna and they were the best of friends. They were in the same grade at school because Eunice was able to skip a grade.

Cyrus was never thrilled with farming and sought other ways of making a living. Mabel had,  prior to their marriage, been certified as a teacher and contributed to the family income. Brother Paul was content as a farmer and had continued farming while his wife Irma was also certified to teach school. Cyrus opened a hardware store in Mayerthorpe with a friend, Ralph Kidd, They eventually gave up the business after Cyrus sold the farm.  Mabel was assigned to a school in Whitecourt, northwest of Mayerthorpe and they moved there in 1957 and lived in rented homes while Cyrus worked in a hardware store.

Donna and Eunice graduated high school in 1954 and were 2 of 4 in the class that matriculated to go on to college. Donna moved to Edmonton in the summer of 1954 and began her studies for a certificate as a medical technologists. Eunice moved to Edmonton in the fall and started her studies to become a teacher. They shared an apartment for a while.

 

 

 

Donna’s High School graduation party picture 1954.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna’s high school graduation picture 1954

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna and Eunice shopping in Edmonton in 1954.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Med Tech graduation picture 1956.

 

 

 

After graduation from Med Tech school she went to work in a hospital in Medicine Hat, Alberta. She returned to Edmonton in 1958 and worked at the University of Alberta hospital while attending classes at the University.

 

 

 

A 1958 university class picture

 

 

 

 

 

Med Tech Lab class attendee in 1959.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna graduated from the University in 1962 with a BSc degree in chemistry.
  

 

 

 

During her final year at the university I met Donna through a friend and we started to date. She went off to Europe the summer of 1962 with a girl friend and when she returned we were seeing each other on a frequent basis.

The province of Alberta established a two year technical school in Edmonton  which was called the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). Donna was hired as the head of the Medical Technology Department with the charter to develop class material and hire teachers. When I felt that I had a good research project for my PhD, I proposed to her and we planned a December 1963 wedding.

 

 

 

Donna at a NYC conference for Med Tech Managers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John and Donna around the time of their marriage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wedding picture of Donna, John, and John’s mother Mary.

 

 

 

 

The wedding party which included Donna’s and John’s immediate families.

 

 

 

 

 

John and Donna on their wedding day.

 

 

 

 

I finished my PhD thesis in the early spring of 1965. Unfortunately for Donna, who had a very good and secure job at NAIT, I could not stay in Edmonton due to the lack of the kind of professional  position I was seeking. I subsequently received a guest research position in the physics Department of the University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany. We headed to Germany with Donna 6 months pregnant. We flew to Frankfurt, Germany then took a train to Wolfsburg where we picked up a new Volkswagen Variant that we ordered while still in Edmonton. Some members of the University’s physics department had found a downstairs apartment for us  in a two story multiplex in the Littenweiler section of Freiburg. They also found a German hospital for us where Donna would deliver her baby. In May 1965, our daughter Michele Bridget was born.

 

 

 

 

We lived in the bottom left part of this multiplex home on 10 Herman Herder Strasse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna in the apartment hallway ready to go off to Sanct Elizabeth Krankenhaus to deliver her baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The proud parents of Michele Bridget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During our two years in Freiburg, Donna had no professional life hence lived the life of a housewife. She slowly learned survival skills in the German language. I had a head start with the language because I had studied German for two years while an undergraduate at the University of Scranton. We did extensive traveling throughout Europe.. Nearly all of the travel was done with our VW Variant, a tent for shelter, and camping equipment for meal preparation. Aside from socializing with our German friends and colleagues, there were  English speaking visitors at the University with whom we became acquainted. 

 

A camp site in Brienz, Switzerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna with young Michele during one of our outings into the Black Forest

 

 

 

At the end of the two years in Freiburg, I accepted a research position in the Physics Department at Yale University (New Haven, CT) and worked in the group of  D. Allan Bromley’s nuclear research center. Allan Bromely later became George H. W. Bush’s science adviser.

Before we left for the USA, we had to get Michele a passport. She was not entitled to German citizenship so we chose to get her a US passport as apposed to a Canadian one (Donna’s citizenship) which we would have done if we were headed back to Canada. When Michele was 6 weeks old we drove to the Stuttgart US consulate and obtained a passport for her. Her picture in the passport was signed by “father, John G. Pronko”  We also had to arrange for Donna to immigrate into the US and arranged the proper paperwork in the form of a “green card”.. We left Freiburg in June 1967 and drove to Cherbourg, France where we started the journey across the Atlantic in the ship Queen Mary with our VW Variant below deck.

 

 

 

Donna and Michele on the Queen Mary. 

 

 

 

 

 

Entering New York City harbor.

 

 

We moved into an apartment in West Haven for a year then to an old farm house in the village of Northwoods. When Michele was old enough to attend Montessori School, Donna began searching for employment to supplement our income. However, she had no interest in going back into the field of medical technology. After a two week  stint with a temp agency Man Power, filling little boxes with razor blades, she accepted a part time position as technician for one of the professors in the Yale Department of Forestry, This was a more satisfying entry back into the work force. This would not last too long because our next move was to Palo Alto, CA where I accepted a position in the Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory.

During our stay at Yale, we attempted to get Donna pregnant but to no avail. After seeking medical advice, during our last year at Yale, she had a few miscarriages and then a good pregnancy. Once again we would be traveling to a new location with Donna pregnant.

We decided to buy a new 1970 Ford Fairlane station wagon with which to make the trip to California. With a hitch attached to the the back of the station wagon, we pulled the VW Variant across the country loaded with a few of our household needs and camping equipment. Lockheed paid for the move to CA and transported our furniture and other belongings in a moving van.

 

 

Along with a few motels, we spent the night at many campsites.

 

 

 

 

 

Donna and Michele at a  road side rest area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donna and Michele at the Great Salt Lake, Utah.

 

 

 

When we arrived in Palo Alto, we looked for a place to rent which ended up being on Creeden Way in Mountain View.  After spending the summer adjusting to our new environment, Donna delivered a healthy boy in November 1970. We gave him the name of Gregory William.

 

 

 

Gregory and Donna

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the summer of 1971, we bought a home in Los Altos on Hawthorne Ave. We lived there for the next 27 years.  Donna was once again a house wife for a number of years until Greg was old enough to go to Montessori School.  In 1974, she began studies at San Jose State University for a a masters degree in public health. Once she achieved that goal she was in a position to launch into a new profession.

Her first position was in 1979 with Stanford University hospital as an Education and Development Specialist. She was in charge of training staff members. In 1982, the financial institution, Capitol Preservation (Benham Group) made an offer that she could not refuse and ended up in the human resources  department . In 1984, Jeanne Kennedy (the wife of the president of Stanford University) wanted to get Donna back into dealing with health matters and made her an offer to come back to the Stanford University Hospital. She was hired as Director of Patient Representatives in the office of Community and Patient Relations. In 1990, the Benham organization enticed her back to working for them as Manager of Human Resources. She remained there until retiring in 1995 at the age 58.

For years we kept renewing Donna’s residency green card. During one of our trips from Canada back into the US, Donna bragged to the border agent about the fact that both of her parents were born in the US. The agent said that meant she was actually a US citizen by virtue of her parents birth place. He told us what to do to get a US passport for her.

We gathered the necessary documents such as birth certificates and marriage licenses. Fortunately, both SD and MN still had records of her parents births which they duplicated and sent to us. We sent in the paper work in 2006 to the US Justice Department and she had a US passport within 7 weeks. After renewing her green card over a period of 36 years, we no longer had to go through that process.  Assuming that she could not vote in the US because she was Canadian, she never registered to vote in the US. I assume now that she could have registered to vote during that period. Our agreement at the time was that she would study the issues and I would do the voting. She immediately registered to vote once she had a US passport. In the mean time, we renewed her Canadian passport when ever it was about to expire so that she now continues to have dual citizenship.

Unfortunately, Donna began showing some signs of dementia as early as 2008. She was aware of it and attempted to get into a University of California Davis dementia study but was told she was not advanced enough.  In 2012 (at the age of 75 years) she was diagnosed with early Alzheimer disease. She was put on medication to slow the process down. As this is being written in December 2018, she no longer remembers much of her past life and gets confused when dressing. However, she is not bitter nor angry and still has a sense of humor. She is very pleasant to be with. During the past years, despite the dementia, we made at times up to 6 trips a year to Hawaii, Canada, Europe, South and Central America. She does not remember much of the trips, but despite that we had a lot of fun at the time. They will be great memories for me!