Raye Marie Johnson Fisher Atkinson Donatella
Raye Marie Johnson Fisher Atkinson Donatella died Thursday, February 15, 2018. While there were various medical issues, she truly died of a broken heart having lost her husband and soul mate of almost 30 years, Peter J. Donatella, just 4 months earlier.
Raye Marie Johnson was born on Saturday, September 28, 1935 in Cleves, Ohio, a rural village on the Ohio River between Cincinnati and the Indiana border. Her father was Ersel Johnson, a traveling salesman, and her mother was Elnora Adelaide Woods Johnson who raised her and Ersel’s seven children. Raye was the sixth of the seven. Raised during the Great Depression and World War II, she kept those ideals throughout her life. As a young girl and during high school she loved to draw and studied art. At the age of 16, she married Jerry Fisher and moved with him, her brother Ira Johnson, and several of their friends to Camp Polk, Louisiana where they were serving in the Army during the Korean War. After their service was over, she moved to Cleveland, Ohio with Jerry as he took a job with NACA (now NASA). Although they wanted children, Raye and Jerry could never get pregnant. After Raye and Jerry were divorced, she moved to Arizona to help her sister, Barbara, and her mother take care of her father. While working as an executive secretary at Motorola, she met Arthur Atkinson. They were married and she became the mother to Art’s four children by his first wife, as well as three children of her own: Gary Atkinson, Dennis Atkinson, Mara Atkinson Titus Miller, David Atkinson, Dale Atkinson, Dana Atkinson Vaughn Lane, and Donald Atkinson. She always loved art and would do tempera paintings on windows of her house and for some businesses. In 1965 while in Bisbee, she again started following her love of art and began oil painting. Her teacher and mentor was Leonora Benton, and she also studied under Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia. She painted mostly in oils throughout her life, although she experimented in other mediums and with clay sculpture and ceramics. She later taught oil painting to friends and family.
While she sold her paintings through art galleries and Barrows Furniture stores in Phoenix, she always believed that art should be owned by those who loved it, and would provide her paintings for free to those who couldn’t afford the gallery prices. To help bring in money to support the large family, she and Art owned a gas station in the early 1960s, Art’s Signal Service Station on the corner of 43rd and McDowell. When they moved from Bisbee to Goodyear, she and Art ran rural paper routes, and she ran a rural postal route. One day while running the postal route in Rainbow Valley, she had car troubles and when she opened the hood the radiator overflow bottle exploded giving her second- and third-degree burns on her arms, chest, neck and face. She drove herself to a place where she could get help and call for someone else to finish the route. After she recovered from the burns, she got her real estate license and worked as a real estate salesperson and broker throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. As a salesperson, she was a million-dollar salesperson every year. While working at May Real Estate, she met Peter Donatella. As soul mates, Pete and Raye divorced their spouses and married, spending the next almost 30 years together in the kind of relationship we all dream about. She gave up her real estate career and became a school secretary and administrative assistant, first in Litchfield Park and later in the Palm Valley schools. She loved the teachers and especially the kids and working around them.
Raye was preceded in death by her parents, Ersel and Elnora Johnson; four of her siblings, Ersel Johnson, Dale Johnson, Elizabeth Johnson Marsh, and Barbara Johnson Waite; her husbands, Jerry Fisher, Arthur Atkinson and Peter Donatella; and two of her children, son Dennis Atkinson and daughter Dana Atkinson Vaughn Lane. She is survived by two brothers, Ira Johnson of Toledo, Ohio, and Neil Johnson of Fort Wayne, Indiana; five of her children, Gary Atkinson of Phoenix, Mara Atkinson Titus Miller of Glendale, David Atkinson of Corydon, Indiana, Dale Atkinson of Placitas, New Mexico, and Donald Atkinson of Sun City West; and 18 grandchildren, 38 great grandchildren, and 1 great-great grandchild.
A Memorial Service will be held at 4:30 pm, Tuesday, February 20, 2015 at the Thompson Funeral Chapel in Goodyear. Following the Memorial Service, a celebration of life will be held at her and Pete’s home. Condolences for the family can be left at www.thompsonfuneralchapel.com.