Donalson dies after fight with cancer

Published 3:44 pm Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mary Frances Donalson, the long time news writer for The Post-Searchlight and a steadfast supporter of numerous causes in the community, died Thursday morning.

She was 86.

Born and raised in Attapulgus, Ga., Donalson was an only child and lived in the same house her father and mother built. Cancer forced her to leave it for extended stays in hospitals and finally, Memorial Manor, where she died. In fact, she left Decatur County only long enough to earn a college degree from Valdosta State University.

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Donalson started working for The Post-Searchlight when former Georgia Governor S. Marvin Griffin was its publisher in approximately 1950, then eventually worked for his son, Sam Griffin Jr., when he took over the newspaper. She had also worked as a stringer for The Albany Herald, Tallahassee Democrat and several other publications.

Prior to that, Donalson was an English teacher who taught several Decatur County citizens that she far outlasted.

Donalson covered the police beat for The Post-Searchlight for years, and in March 2008, Sheriff Wiley Griffin swore her in as an honorary deputy. At the same time, the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office officially retired “Max,” then an 11-year-old drug-sniffling black Lab, and transferred him to the custody of Donalson. “Max” would often accompany her on assignment and in the newsroom.

Donalson covered the police, often riding with them, as well as writing about courts and numerous other beats in Decatur County or southwest Georgia.

She was a 50-year-plus charter member of the Pilot Club of Bainbridge and served as its safety chairman for many years. She was also on the board of directors of the Bainbridge-Decatur County Humane Society.

Her loves in life also included her numerous cats, gardening, particularly daylilies, reading and painting under the tutelage of Mary Barber Cox.

The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, at Attapulgus United Methodist Church. Interment will follow at Attapulgus United Methodist Church Cemetery. The family will receive friends Friday, Sept. 25, from 6 to 7 p.m. at Ivey Funeral Home.