Julia Morgan's original drawings for our Clubhouse, Courtesy of Cal Poly Archives

Donna Barkdull by Lisa Guy

September 22, 2015 11:38 AM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

Donna Barkdull was an only child, born in 1925 in a little town called Pecan Gap, Texas.  Her grandfather was a traveling gospel preacher who eventually bought a family farm in Texas and settled down with his wife and 17 children.  When her grandfather died at the age of 81, her grandmother sold the farm and took a greyhound bus to personally deliver all of the children’s share of the farm proceeds and their inheritance.  Donna’s mother was quite a remarkable person, and was the first of her family to attend college.  She enjoyed a successful career as an Insurance Actuary Agent.

In 1935, at the urging of her fiancé, Donna’s mother and 10 year old Donna hopped on a Greyhound bus and traveled from Dallas to Los Angeles, to begin their new life.  The new family of three lived for a while with Donna’s aunt and two cousins, and even though the kids in school teased her a bit for her Texas accent, she still had lots of fun and remembers her house being the one where everyone gathered: “the kids all came and played in our grassy side yard and under the house to keep cool, until we found the black widow spiders…”

Donna’s Aunt Inez, industrious and hard-working, purchased a night club in Dallas, fixed it up and added a restaurant, which became quite a success out on the strip.  Donna remembers these days fondly as there was a little house connected to the night club, where she and her four cousins would stay during the summers while their mothers helped out the business.  Amazingly enough, the notorious Bonnie and Clyde often frequented the restaurant, and Donna remembers them to be “fun and friendly”, and said “they would always come and go in a hurry!” 


In Texas, Donna had attended a one room schoolhouse with one teacher for all the grades.  After the move to California, she worked hard and was a straight “A” student. Donna was also a notorious animal catcher – rabbits, mice, anything small and furry – she would bring them home, feed them and set them free again. She had thoughts of attending college, as her mother had done, and even interviewed at Pepperdine University, but at 16 Donna married her first husband.


Donna's husband left to fight in the Second World War, right after Donna discovered she was pregnant with their daughter Sandra.  Tragically, he was shot down and held as a German prisoner for four long years.  She sent letters and care packages to him in prison, which the whole family pitched in to fill. The conditions were atrocious and when he was finally released and returned home, he was in great need of healing, and moved in with his brother who was a doctor. He was a very different man when he returned and although they stayed friends, their marriage was over. As Donna explained, “The stories we’ve all heard are true. They really did bury people alive. If you so much as stuck your arm out of the cabin, the guards would shoot you.”

According to Donna, “World War II stopped everything – and also opened the employment world for women.” During the time that her husband was held in a German prison, Donna found a job as typist, working for the Southern California Gas Company. It was not easy being a single mother, but the government allotted $90 for child care each month, and she took Sandra to a babysitter. Times were hard, and Donna remembers taking the bus with her mother to the downtown market where they could fill two bags with food (meat, bread, produce, etc.) for only two dollars, and this was to get them through the week.

Several years later her parents purchased a boysenberry farm in Ontario, CA, and little Sandra was able to live with them during the week while Donna worked. In the meantime, she continued to move up the ladder at the Gas Company, holding the positions of Telephone Clerk (handling complaints), later taking a position in the billing department, and finally, towards the end of her 18 years of service, being promoted to Public Liaison for the Improvement Department (she was one of two women who were given cars and sent out into the community to educate people about new products, assist in the attainment of new appliances and increase public awareness).


In the early 60’s Donna met her beloved husband, Sherwood Barkdull, who worked for an Insurance company. The couple dated for over two years, and eventually married.  Donna’s parents helped them purchase a house in Ontario, and she begged the Gas Company for a transfer. Due to the uncertain times, the best they could offer her was a position in Compton, which meant an 80 mile round trip ride each day. She made this trip for a number of years, but finally, after many years with the Gas Company, Donna decided it was time to make a career change. “Bark”, as Sherwood was affectionately called, and Donna purchased a home in Lomita and Donna started studying for her Real Estate license.

Bark had a friend from high school, a retired policeman, named Lu Ferguson who lived with his wife Carol in a beautiful house at the end of Indio Street in Shell Beach, on the Central Coast.  Donna and Bark came up to visit and fell in love with the rocky cliffs of Pismo Heights.  After making an offer on a house that was pulled back off the market, they purchased a home on Wadsworth Street and moved to their new home in the early 70’s. 

Carol was a member of The Monday Club, and immediately drew Donna into the membership.  Donna fondly recalls Carol’s beautiful singing voice, and how often she entertained the ladies at their monthly meetings and frequent performances:  “Carol had a beautiful, smooth voice - just like Doris Day”. Donna also remembers having lots of fun with fellow Monday Club member, Idabelle Shields. She remembers, “We used to dress up all the time and sing duets! Idabelle was so much fun.”

Donna was motivated, hard-working and determined, purchasing Grace and John Dillon’s Real Estate office in Shell Beach upon moving to the Central Coast, and eventually purchasing and operating Gold Coast Realty in Pismo Beach for over 20 years.  She continued in the real estate business for the remainder of her working days.  During this time she also served as President of The Monday Club (1981-83), and chaired most every Committee at one time or another.  Donna has fond memories of Martha Schwartz. “Martha was behind getting a lot done…she was the backbone of the Club.  We had fun and did some good things for the community too!”

At ninety years of age, Donna has lived a full life with many adventures and trials.  She lost her beloved husband, Bark, nine years ago, the week of their 50th wedding anniversary, and her daughter Sandra when she was just sixty. Donna has lived many places, experienced many things, and now lives comfortably with her grandson Corey, her little dog and beautiful cat in a home perched on the cliffs of Pismo Heights, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. She believes the happiest time of her life was early on in her marriage to Bark, and is saddened by the passing of so many family members and friends as the years progress.

Donna just celebrated her 90th birthday this summer, with all of her family around her, including her six great grandchildren!  When asked what important words of wisdom 

Donna would like to pass on to the younger generation, her nephew Corey interjected “she has always said "get out there and vote – make a difference!" Donna has not been able to attend a Monday Club meeting in several years due to health problems and the illness and passing of her husband, but she is planning to join us for our October 5th General Meeting and Luncheon,  and is excited to see all of the wonderful things that we have going on.  She is also very excited to see her good friend Idabelle (now 104 years old), who is planning to attend the October meeting too!


  • October 06, 2015 9:02 AM | Vicki Carroll (Administrator)
    Thank you for writing this beautiful account of Donna's history, Lisa. I hope that all of our club members will read this. We have so many remarkable women amongst us and Donna is certainly one of them! It is too bad that Donna could not join us at the meeting yesterday.

    It is such an honor to be a member of The Monday Club and get to know our remarkable members!

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