Donald L. Bell, 86, died at 3:56 a.m. Thursday, March 11, 2021, at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, MN.
He was born May 14, 1934, in Slippery Rock, PA, the fifth of 11 children born to Rev. James Leslie Bell and Margaret Lucile (Timblin) Bell. He graduated from Tusculum College in Tennessee, earned his M.Div. from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in Kentucky, and his D.Min. from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
Donald was supposed to have been a professor or a minister of a big church. He wasn’t, but he could have been. Instead he spent his life learning for the joy of knowledge, and he gave up an impressive career to lift up others. His life was a communal one growing up as one of 11 siblings providing more than enough stories of shenanigans to tell a child at bedtime.
He went into ministry because he was expected to, and fortunately ended up being quite good at it. His experiences with God were more intellectual than emotional (so he thought) which set him apart and left him feeling isolated, but he was a magnificent teacher who made people feel loved and seen while he always taught from the pulpit. He was on his way to big church glory when he met Dianna, and after three and a half months he ran away with her to her new post as a Navy Chaplain with his daughter, Carrie, begrudgingly in tow.
After the Navy they began a career as co-pastors and moved all around the country. Donald knew that Dianna wouldn’t be accepted to have a ministry as a woman on her own, and he devoted the rest of his life supporting her personally and professionally. Ever after he was the most supportive man to women trying to make it especially in the church. Early on in this time they had their daughter, Kathryn, and she grew up in this warped world wherein women are regarded as just as good as men.
His ministry changed and he became an expert in conflict management for he had a wonderfully calm demeanor and ability to not get caught up in the emotional messes of others. He said he never saved anyone for Jesus, but he definitely saved churches. He also delved more into his reading, first off anything he could find about the Civil War which eventually led him to getting halfway through reading the original correspondence. Once in retirement he made a cherry pie from the fruit of the tree in the yard. And all along he loved - especially his family.
In the last five years the great, new love of his life has been his granddaughter, Lillie. His back pain became ever worse, and she brought life and vigor and so much love to him. She is the most compassionate and caring preschooler who knows how to get shoes, clean glasses, and help walk people through doors. Grandpapa’s body is no longer living, but his spirit will extend on through the force of his love that he gave.
Donald has gone on to be with his best friend, Roy, sibling No. 6, and his older daughter, Carrie, who is already giggling with him.
He moved around a ton, so there will not need to be fees paid to publish this in a newspaper, but his gentle soul and emboldening spirit have touched everywhere.
He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Dianna, his daughter, Kathryn (who doesn’t know what she is going to do without him) and her husband Glenn, and his granddaughter, Lillie, whom no grandpa ever loved more.
In his memory, please keep asking yourself how you feel about being you. Keep knowing that you indeed are strong enough to do what seems impossible. Keep fighting to be heard and seen and taken seriously for the gift to the world that you are. Remember Donald and feel loved.