After a rapid but stubborn battle against brain cancer, F. Donavon Kuehnast passed away at the age of 79 on October 11, 2023. Donavon arrived in heaven from his home in Bismarck, North Dakota, surrounded by his family.
On May 6, 1944, Floyd and Maxine Kuehnast welcomed their second child, Donavon, in the small farming town of Lanesboro, Minnesota. On his family’s farm, Donavon cultivated his lifelong love of sun, hard work, and coaxing growth from the soil. Growing up, Donavon spent hours in the barn and fields, helping his dad milk cows and tend crops. As a high school student, he enjoyed baseball, basketball, and running track. The highlight of being crowned homecoming king his senior year showcased his friendly nature.
From the farm to the corporate world, Donavon entered banking at the Lanesboro State Bank in 1963. In December of 1964, Donavon joined the Minnesota Army National Guard, serving for nearly six years. He was grateful to serve his country and remained very patriotic his entire life. On October 16, 1971, after four months of dates at boisterous hockey games, Donavon married Lois Collver, a contagiously joyful nurse and the daughter of a passionate preacher. Together, Donavon and Lois raised a son, Todd, and a daughter, Heidi. After moving from Minnesota to Florida and back again, Donavon settled with his family in the lively community of Northfield, Minnesota, where he continued his career as a banker, becoming the president of First Bank-Northfield in 1984. In April of 1987, Donavon put a group of investors together to buy the bank, which became Community National Bank and was later renamed Community Resource Bank.
During his long and rewarding banking career, Donavon received such accolades as the Northfield Business Person of the Year award in 2005, the Minnesota Bankers Association Bank Champion Award in 2006, and the MBA’s Pioneer Award before his retirement. He also saw his bank named Business of the Year. Donavon demonstrated commitment to improving education and work ethic in young people during his career. Under his leadership, the bank invested in numerous programs, funding college scholarships for students, focusing on the interplay of education and business during Chamber Awareness Week, and starting the Junior Board program for the bank. He was also elected to the Minnesota Bankers Association board of directors and was the MBA’s president from 1999 to 2000. Still, even immersed in the corporate world, the farmer in Donavon never slept. Pulling up a stool beside a cow, he won a milking contest with ease during his tenure as bank president. His family also enjoyed the bounty from his beautiful summer gardens.
Donavon remained a grounded and humble worker throughout his life and career. Countless people praised and admired his strong leadership, generosity, work ethic, and care for his employees. Active in many committees, civic organizations, and humanitarian efforts in his community, Donavon served in leadership roles in the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Northfield United Way, Northfield Arts Guild, Northfield Industrial Corporation, Northfield Economic Development Authority, and Northfield Golf Club among others. Donavon undoubtedly put the “Community” in “Community Resource Bank.” After 51 years in banking, Donavon retired at the end of 2014.
A devoted father, Donavon made sure to prioritize attending his children’s sporting events, concerts, and activities. After Todd and Heidi started families of their own, Donavon became “Papa” to one grandson (Isaiah) and five granddaughters (Amelie, Paige, Alaina, Brooke, and Hailey). In July of 2019, Donavon and Lois moved to North Dakota to be near their children and grandchildren. Settling in Bismarck, Donavon became an active member at Century Baptist Church where he and Lois made many dear friends. He found his niche serving as a greeter alongside his wife and friends. The hospitality at Century Baptist’s doors will not be the same without Donavon’s beaming presence and firm handshake.
Donavon’s love language was giving, and his actions touched so many people, creating an indelible imprint on his family, friends, employees, church, and community. While in banking, he would often go the extra mile for employees and customers while always greeting everyone heartily with his huge smile. Donavon's kindness and friendliness enabled him to strike up conversations with anyone. He was always invested in loving his family, friends, and neighbors well. After he became a grandfather, he found many fun little gifts for his grandchildren. He loved to give them rides in his golf cart and take them out for treats. Always a gentleman, he would drop Lois off at the door of wherever they were going, whether in blazing sun or pouring rain.
Donavon loved to laugh and sourced much laughter from the antics of his grandchildren. His family will greatly miss his exuberant greetings, his ever-present humming, and his affectionate nicknames. Donavon enthusiastically reacted to sports games and the news. Though they try their hardest, his grandchildren still can’t quite imitate his indescribable rolling, shuffling clap when the Minnesota Twins or Green Bay Packers would score. He continued to read physical copies of the newspaper his entire life, and he would save the funnies section for his grandchildren. Another one of Donavon’s favorite pastimes boasted his impressive sweet tooth and adventurous palate in visiting a pizzeria for a hamburger-mushroom-pineapple pizza, a bakery for a chocolate-glazed donut, or Culver’s for a hearty fish dinner.
Attached to the outdoors, Donavon loved hunting, fishing, and golfing. He spent countless hours trekking through the woods with a rifle in search of bucks, sitting on the lake catching walleye and sunfish, and swinging his driver on the green hills of golf courses. Donavon was also renowned for his gardening and landscaping, stringing spectacular Christmas lights every year and cultivating the smoothest, greenest lawn adorned with bright flowers and fresh vegetables.
Donavon lived in gratitude and humility, loving family, friends, food, and things that grow. Above all, he loved Jesus with all of his heart.
Donavon is survived by Lois, his wife of 52 years; his son Todd (Emily); his daughter Heidi (Ethan) Johnson; his six grandchildren; his sisters Annette (Richard) Kiehne, Linda Iverson, and Julie (Dale) Magee; his brother Doug (Donna); many brothers- and sisters-in-law; and many nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his parents, two sisters-in-law, and two brothers-in-law.
Visitation will be Wednesday, October 18, 2023, at Parkway Funeral Service from 5 to 7 p.m., with a time to share memories beginning at 7 p.m. A memorial service honoring Donavon’s life and the work of his Savior Jesus Christ is scheduled for Thursday, October 19, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. at Century Baptist Church. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be sent to Whispers of Hope, 204 7th St W #214, Northfield, MN, 55057, or through the ministry’s website www.whispersofhopemn.org.