People of Etowah – Donna Patterson


Name: Donna Patterson

Where were you born and raised?

Etowah County; I’m a Rainbow City girl.”

What is your occupation?

Retired sales associate and former sales manager. In 2015, I retired from the Gadsden/Etowah Chamber of Commerce as a membership sales associate.”

What made you decide to work in your field?

“I truly enjoy meeting people and get satisfaction from helping people and watching them become successful as they grow their business. Over the years, I was very successful in sales, but far more valuable than the titles or my success were my clients. They educated me and taught me so much about life and community and giving back. They became lifelong friends, and many like my family. I still visit many of them each month just to say hello.”

Tell us about your family and pets. 

“I am married to Donny Patterson from Ashville for 47 years in December. We have one daughter, Kelly Lankford. She is married to John Lankford. We have one granddaughter, Sydney, age 7. They live in Foley. Kelly is a branch manager of a bank in Orange Beach. John is an aerospace mechanic in a plant in Foley. Sydney is in the second grade at Snook Christian Academy. We adopted our sweet Zoe, a long-haired Dachshund, five years ago. She is spoiled rotten and has a one-of-a-kind personality. She thinks she is human. We’ve had dachshunds for over 30 years, but Zoe is a special girl. I wish I knew her story, but I promised her she would never again be mistreated the day we rescued her.”

Describe an average day in your life. 

   “I am a creature of habit. I work out at the gym three days a week and have had the same trainer for 10 years. I have no set schedule on the other days. I visit the elderly in nursing homes or rehab centers or just drop by their house. I have lunch with friends, do yard work or house work or go shopping.”

What school or schools have you attended? 

“I am a graduate of Southside High School and I attended Gadsden State.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“I have discovered all the wonderful antique stores in our area. I decided to downsize in my home, so I sold some of my furniture that I am replacing with antiques. I recently found my mom’s old dining table in storage that was 65-plus years old and decided to have it painted. That ignited an interest that I truly love – visiting antique stores.”

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

“My daughter and granddaughter. Seeing the family traditions passed down from my parents to me and then to my daughter and her to her daughter. People tend to forget family traditions. My parents and sister are deceased, so we want to keep our family history alive through these things.”

Name the one person that has been the most influential in your life. Why?

“My dad! Everyone loved my dad. He never met a stranger and he was a true giver. He also told me that all you have in life that never changes is your good name. Never do anything to tarnish your name. He fought a good fight with cancer and passed away in 1997. He had more courage than anyone I’ve ever known. He never felt sorry for himself or ask, “Why me?” At his funeral, people stood in line for up to three hours to offer our family their condolences and share stories of things my dad had done to help them, things that we never knew about. My dad is my All-Time Hero.”

To what do you credit your success?

“Having great teachers and leaders as employers, as well as these three things – honesty, respect and to listen. Treat people with respect and listen to what they are saying. When I made a sale, I treated that sale as if I were spending my own hard-earned money. Be honest and don’t promise results; just tell them what you can and will do to help them. I’m old school. Appreciate your clients and thank them for doing business with you and your company. Send a hand-written note. If they have to choose one person to do business with, I think they will remember that note over an e-mail every time.”

Are you involved in any service organizations?

“I am a regional coordinator for Fellowship International working with high school exchange students. In previous years, I have volunteered with and served on numerous boards of directors, including United Way, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Northeast Alabama, the Humane Society and Adoption Center, Downtown Gadsden, Inc.; the Boys and Girls Clubs; and The Chamber.”

What is your favorite thing about this community?

“The way that we all pull together in a time of disaster. Regardless of whether those affected are local or are several states away, we want to help others.”

What would you like to see change in the community?

“New businesses and more industry. That means growth of our workforce and with better benefits and higher wages. People are moving away from our area for better jobs.”

What are three words that describe you?

“I asked several friends that question, and they said Happy, Helpful and Devoted. I say Spontaneous, Loyal and Loving, so take your pick.”

What is something surprising that many do not know about you?

“I once dressed as Marilyn Monroe and actually sang, “Happy Birthday. Mr. President” for a United Way video. I wore a black sequined evening gown with long gloves, a 1950 hair style, huge fake diamonds and all! I’m so happy that VHS tapes are a thing of the past. I was afraid that the then-director Karen Owen would blackmail me with it.”

What is your favorite quote?

“Not a quote but Scripture. Matthew 7:12 The Golden Rule: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the law of the prophets.” New American Standard Version.”

What is on your bucket list? 

“At my age, my list is very doable – a ride at Talladega Superspeedway in a race car; learn to shoot a gun; ride in a blimp; and learn sign language; and ride on a steam engine train. I crossed off one of them a few weeks ago.”

What is your hidden talent?

“I love to bake, especially sweet treats. My husband is the best cook in our family, so no one believes that I can cook or bake!”

If a movie were made about your life, who would you want to play you?

“Diane Keaton. She is a talented lady who is very good in comedy or drama. She can make you smile or cry – she’s awesome!”

What advice would you give yourself as a child? 

“Freckles are okay; they really do fade. On a serious note, it’s okay to make a mistake.”

If you would like to nominate someone for the People of Etowah column, email or call 256-547-1049.

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