Donald Lee Burnell, 71, passed away peacefully on Wednesday June 21, 2023 with family members by his side. Don has finally joined his Savior in heavenly glory and reunited with his father, mother, and brother!
Born January 2, 1952 to John and Betty Burnell, Donald lived his rambunctious young life in Jolietville, IN. Raised during simpler times with siblings Linda, Betty, John, Jimmy, and Sue Ann; Don was never far from mischief or adventure in the Burnell house. He graduated from Westfield High School in 1970.
A relentless work ethic was instilled in Donald at a young age, as parents John and Betty set the tone. He held numerous jobs through adolescence and young adult life. These included various roles on and around farms, some interesting golf caddying experiences, and other forms of factory work or general labor. However, it was in 1974 that Don’s journey began for his true calling as a Plumber! Over the course of an envious 45-year career, Don navigated through apprenticeship to licensed journeyman to project superintendent for the City of Indianapolis. From residential homes to 28-story municipal buildings, no leak or clog stood a chance if Don or Don’s team was called into action. His professional skill equally matched his professional generosity as he never turned down an opportunity to help friends and family with their plumbing needs, whether that meant dirty crawl spaces, flooded basements, or new equipment and appliance installs. Donald retired on September 27, 2019, but not before renewing his licensing so he could “officially” continue to work on small projects for those closest to him.
Donald was the consummate “Life of the Party.” He loved getting together with friends and family to celebrate any occasion. Holidays, family cookouts, and all gatherings were a chance to enjoy life and have a good time. His dance moves were almost as legendary as his short shorts. The family vacations were full of adventure. Visits to brother John in Colorado, his parents in Florida, and even a trip to the Rocky Mountains brought out the full Burnell family experience.
Donald’s hobbies varied throughout his life. These activities included hunting squirrels and rabbits, fishing, and golfing. He loved golfing with his brother-in-law Jeff, who truly was like a real brother and one of Donald’s closest friends.
A chance encounter with a young blonde girl in 1971 would eventually lead to a fateful evening on December 31, 1974. It was that New Years Eve party at an Eagletown farmhouse that Donald Burnell would reconnect with the love of his life, Trina. A whirlwind courtship would culminate with these two lovebirds being married November 1, 1975. All the familiar clichés can describe their next forty-seven and a half years: better and worse, richer and poorer, high and lows, you get the picture. But their love for each other withstood all turmoil. Donald and Trina took care of each other through it all. Surgeries, cancer treatments, and even organ transplants. Their true love stood firm for forty-seven and a half years and will certainly reunite again someday for all of eternity.
Donald loved his daughters Shelby and Amy with all his heart. Their sometimes-challenging childhood and teenage relationships were full of tough-love, but would eventually blossom into beautiful testimony of a father’s unconditional love in their adult lives. Donald would do absolutely anything for his daughters, without hesitation. He welcomed Shelby’s husband Tony, and Amy’s husband Drew into the family as his own sons.
The overwhelming love became even more evident when Donald the Daddy was promoted to Donald the Papaw. He LOVED his grandkids SO much!
Donald got such joy from every aspect of his grandkid’s lives. Nolan, Marek, William, and Paisley were his greatest sources of happiness. The grandkids were always welcome for sleepovers at Mamaw and Papaw’s. Candy on the menu, of course! Late night cartoon sessions, you bet! Slip them a ten or a twenty without anybody knowing, yep! Papaw made sure each one had Power Wheels to cruise their own neighborhood. Don even found a new passion for shopping as he spoiled the kids around birthdays and Christmas. As the kids got older, his relationships with them deepened and he was able to share even more of his experiences and memories, particularly plumbing and golf.
Always somewhat of a God-fearing man, Donald never really had a faith to call his own. This all changed in 2003 as Donald was in the hospital recovering from his liver transplant. He vividly recalled experiencing the presence of Jesus, and being told that everything would be alright. Donald was Baptized in the name of Jesus Christ on October 19, 2003. In Donald’s final months, he often spoke of getting to Heaven and wrapping his arms around his Lord and Savior, and giving big hugs to his mom Betty, dad John, and brother John once again.
Donald Burnell’s legacy will carry on long after he is gone.
He is survived by his beautiful wife, Trina; daughters Shelby Hughes (Tony) and Amy Torzewski (Drew); grandchildren Nolan Torzewski, Marek Torzewski, William Hughes, and Paisley Torzewski; sisters Linda Reed, Betty Rynard, and Sue Ann Hay (Mike); brothers Jimmy Burnell and Jeff Francis; as well as many nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be Friday June 30, 2023 from 11:00am to 1:00pm at Flanner Buchanan – Hamilton Memorial Park (Prairie Waters). Funeral Services will be officiated by Pastor George Huff beginning at 1:00pm. Graveside Burial with procession to Williams Creek Cemetery on West 96th Street will immediately follow services.
Memorial contributions may be made in Donald’s name to support the Indiana Donor Network. Call 317-685-0389 or visit Indiana Donor Network.