Jean Donnell accepts a plaque from Fall River Health Services Board President Rich Olstad at a recent celebration, which honored her for her many years of service to the community’s healthcare scene.

HOT SPRINGS - The Fall River Health Services (FRHS) board recently honored Jean Donnell for serving 52 years as executive secretary to the healthcare boards of Hot Springs. On Wednesday afternoon, November 1, the hospital board held an appreciation celebration for Jean. FRHS Board President Rich Olstad dedicated Fall River Hospital’s Dayroom in Jean’s honor and presented her with a plaque that will remain on permanent display in the room.

“Jean has given a lot of years of dedicated service to healthcare in this community,” Olstad said. “She was always very professional and always had things in order.” Olstad added that Jean carried a three-ring binder to meetings that contained the secretary’s minutes and could always answer any questions that arose.

“While generating reams of meticulous shorthand and typed minutes, Jean has documented hundreds of meetings and kept scores of board members on track for over five decades as they tried to meet the changing medical needs of the local community and surrounding area,” said Garry Strauser, who is a board director. “Jean’s compassion, dependability, and secretarial skills have long been respected by the board and throughout the community.” He added that her gentle smile and quiet, unassuming manners brought a welcome calmness to many challenging board meetings.

Over the 52 years, Jean served as board secretary to the Lutheran Southern Hills General Hospital, then the Greater Fall River Health Services and finally the FRHS board, retiring at the end of 2016. Also, from 2003 to December 2016 she was a voting director of the FRHS board.

“We are very appreciative of all the years she served on the Fall River Health Services board,” said Tricia Uhlir, CEO. “She was a wonderful and very competent secretary. We were very fortunate to have her on the board.

From 1959 to 1994, Jean, who is now 91 years old, worked full time as secretary for the superintendent of Wind Cave National Park. “Following her retirement from Wind Cave and after losing her husband, John, in 2002, she didn’t choose to slow down,” Strauser said. “Jean has always found time to volunteer to serve her community and church in many ways.”

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Other local organizations she has been a member of include the Shakespeare Club for 20 years and the Beta Sigma Phi sorority for 69 years. She was secretary/treasurer for the Hot Springs United Way for 20 years. For 40 years she has helped out during the Miss South Dakota Scholarship Pageant by providing housing for Ray Peterson, who is the pageant’s producer. Before that she housed some of the contestants. She attends United Churches.

When asked why she enjoys volunteering she said, “You like to do whatever you can do to help the community.” She added, “I enjoy anything that involves being with people.”

She has great respect for the board members. “All the board members are active and whatever needs to be done, they’re glad to pitch in,” she said.

FRHS is seeking additional community members to serve on its board of directors. Anyone wishing to be considered for appointment is invited to contact Amy Tierney, who is the FRHS executive assistant. Call 745-3159, ext. 2301 or email:

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