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Obituaries » Gaylen Chesnut

Gaylen Chesnut

July 21, 1949 - January 17, 2023

Service Date: January 23, 2023

Church Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

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Donna Catherine Chesnut (Hansen), of Ankeny, Iowa passed away peacefully at home Monday, January 16, 2023, at the age of 73. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, which always held a special place in her heart. Donna was raised in Ottumwa, Iowa where she graduated high school in 1967. She soon met her future husband, Gaylen Chesnut, on a blind date, and they were married on February 22, 1969.

Gaylen Dean Chesnut, of Ankeny, Iowa, also 73, passed away peacefully at home on Tuesday, January 17, 2023, to be with Donna. He was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and raised in Ankeny where he graduated high school, also in 1967. Three months following his marriage to Donna, Gaylen first served his country in the Army National Guard as Military Police and then went on to work his entire career as a proud employee of Deere & Company at John Deere Des Moines Works.

A memorial service for both Donna and Gaylen will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, January 23, 2023, at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (517 SW Des Moines St., Ankeny, IA). Visitation will begin at 9:30 a.m. prior to the service, also at the church. To view the livestream of the memorial service follow this link https://bit.ly/htlc-funeral  There will be a private burial at Ankeny Memorial Gardens.

Donna and Gaylen were happily married for 53 years in Ankeny, Iowa where they raised their two children, Chance (Emily) Chesnut, and Carlie (Anthony) Fitzgerald. They were blessed with four grandchildren: Caden Chesnut (16), Micah Fitzgerald (14), Ireland Chesnut (13), and Evitt Fitzgerald (13).

Donna spent many years as a photo stylist, adding her special touch to magazines and books, most notably for Better Homes and Gardens publications. Everything always had to be “just right” and approved by Donna before the picture was taken, and her passion showed in the photos! She loved to shop for treasures of all kinds – new and antique – and often used her collection for her work. Whether it was a garage sale or Von Maur, she was always ready to shop, and especially enjoyed doing so with her many lifelong friends that loved and supported her. She considered them her family, too.

Donna was often the life of the party, and always the party planner. In fact, she was the ultimate party planner. She arranged many gatherings, weddings and special events for friends, family and even acquaintances, and simply loved to see people happy. Her joy was entertaining.

When not building farm equipment at Des Moines Works, Gaylen was often working on other projects around the house. From carpentry to electric to plumbing, he could fix almost anything…except cars! When asked how he knew so much, his response was often “I’ve been a lot of places and done a lot of things”.

Although quiet, Gaylen was a great listener and a caretaker of all. He had a wonderfully dry sense of humor and always loved a round of sarcastic banter. Gaylen also enjoyed bowling, golfing, and much to Donna’s displeasure, his electronic gadgets.

Together they loved spending time with their grandchildren and enjoying a good meal with them – prepared only by Gaylen, of course! Gaylen was an incredible cook, and his baking skills were unmatched (except perhaps by his mother). Donna and Gaylen were important influencers in their grandkids’ lives, especially in the early years, and their legacy will carry on.

The couple is survived by their son, Chance (Emily) Chesnut of Ankeny, daughter, Carlie (Anthony) Fitzgerald of Johnston; and four grandchildren, Caden, Micah, Ireland and Evitt.

Donna is survived by her siblings, MaryAnna (Gary) Lanigan, Donald (Jayne) Hansen, and Robert Hansen all of Ottumwa, IA; and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Donald Ray Hansen and Anna Catherine Hansen.

Gaylen is survived by his siblings, Phyllis (Eugene) Muehlenthaler of Ankeny, IA, Marlene (Jim) Geddes of Clark, MO, Connie (Jim) Mueller of Olewein, IA, and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Alvin Harold Chesnut and Ruth Geraldine Dodge.

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