RIP Lewis Donley


“Why love if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore. Only the life I have lived. … The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.”  -C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands, by William Nicholson

was one of the first plays Joy Donley directed at Open Window Theatre back in our second season. Since then, Joy has directed or otherwise been involved with numerous other OWT productions, has helped instruct our youth theater classes, and worked as our publicist in addition to volunteering her time on multiple occasions. Her husband, Michael Pearce Donley, has served as sound designer for many of the shows Joy directed and has supported our past Christmas Soiree’s with his musical talents.

The Stanbary’s and Donley’s celebrating Christmas together (2015).

The Donley’s are dear friends on a personal level and are beloved by our entire Open Window Theatre family. Because of their tight knit relationship with OWT we wanted to make our community of patrons and supporters aware of the loss of the Donley’s beloved 16 year-old son, Lewis, on Thursday night, December 15.

The tragic loss of Lewis Donley has hit many people hard, but of course it hits no one harder than his wonderful parents and immediate family. Their pain and grief is unimaginable. And so we implore your prayers for the Donley family right now to help shower them with an abundance of love, strength and grace.

Lewis was an amazing young man with a plethora of talents and a big, beautiful heart. He will be sorely missed. Below is his obituary and funeral service information followed by a deeply moving and important message from his father, Michael, to Lewis’s schoolmates (and applicable to all young people)…


Lewis E. Donley
December 15, 2016
Age 16 of Maplewood
Joined Jesus on December 15, 2016

Lewis was a dearly loved young man, funny and creative, who loved Jesus and others, but in a moment of crisis took his own life. He had a wonderful heart and will be desperately missed. Lewis loved fishing, making and fixing things, and hanging out with his friends at school and church. He played baseball, guitar, trumpet and had a beautiful singing voice. Survived by loving parents, Michael and Joy; dear sister Emma; grandmothers Lois Peterson and Judith Donley; countless friends, family, and a loving birth mom. Service Wednesday (12/21) 11:00am at EAGLE BROOK CHURCH, 2401 E. Buffalo St., White Bear Lake, with visitation beginning at 9:30am. Visitation also Tuesday (12/20) from 4-7pm at SANDBERG FUNERAL HOME 2593 E. 7th Ave., North St Paul. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to First Evangelical Free Church-Maplewood, where a fund has been established in Lewis’s name to support students who wish to attend future Challenge youth conferences.


(This message was originally posted on Facebook)

Lewis’s high school, AFSA, had their school play this weekend. They cut the closing song, and instead sang acapella the song Lewis sang for a talent show last spring. It was an amazing tribute. Here’s what I wrote in response: let it be a message to all who loved him.

I’m Lewis’s dad. We are weeping over your gift to our beloved son. He loved you guys, and planned to be at your show last night. What he did was a rash, spur-of-the-moment thing, and he didn’t mean to hurt you or us. Listen to me: if you ever had an interaction with Lewis and feel like you may be responsible for his despair, let me assure you – it’s not true. And please, if you are sad or in despair, remember you’re loved. This could have happened to any of us. Live on, through the ups and downs of every day, knowing that you are LOVED. And WE love you too. Lewis was lucky to be among you.

Lewis Donley was, in fact, named after C.S. Lewis, and so this post will end as it began with another Lewis quote from Shadowlands:

The most intense joy lies not in the having, but in the desire. Delight that never fades, bliss that is eternal, is only yours when what you most desire is just out of reach.

RIP Lewis Donley.

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