Donnie Ray Dunn, beloved husband, father (Daddy), Granddaddy, and Great-Granddaddy, passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 82 on September 10, 2023.
Donnie Ray was born on April 16, 1941 to Leta Ellen Alligood and William Madison “Buster” Dunn in Moultrie, Georgia. He was one of three children, with older sister Cecile and younger brother Danny. He attended a one room school at Rock Hill as a young boy and graduated from Moultrie High School in 1959. He married Gail Agan in 1961, and they had four children: Loree Hagen (Scott), Monty Dunn, Todd Dunn (Wendie), and Amy Fletcher. He and Gail later divorced, but remained good friends. He married Valeri Thatcher Olsen in 1992 and has five children by marriage: Kristen Stittsworth (Randy), Jeremy Olsen (Jennifer), Merity Bailey (Steve), Matthew Olsen (Emberli), and Geoff Olsen (Briana). He was a very proud and devoted father.
During high school, Donnie Ray played baseball and sang in the A Cappella choir. He had perfect pitch and a beautiful singing voice, and he was one of two boys from the state of Georgia chosen to sing in an FFA choir for President Eisenhower’s 1957 inauguration. He blessed many Sunday worship services with beautiful vocal solos, and he continued to excel at every sport he ever played, especially golf.
Donnie Ray worked for Weyerhaeuser paper mills in North Georgia, Louisiana, and Oklahoma before returning to Moultrie in 1973 to open Dunn Brothers Meats in partnership with his brother. He built Dunn Brothers into a successful business and was very proud of expanding to two processing plants (after buying out a competitor who had predicted that he would never succeed.) He was respected in the local business community for his integrity. He was determined and persuasive in navigating the state and federal regulatory relationships required in food production, often making trips to meet with politicians and regulators in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. The Georgia Meat Packers Association urged him to run for the Georgia State Senate at their expense.
He continued to pursue building businesses, working with start up companies in engineering and tech in Utah until retiring to his and Valeri’s beloved farm in Payson, Utah. He happily transitioned to being an animal whisperer, often sitting on the porch with a chicken or turkey in his lap - embracing a “we don’t eat family” approach to animal husbandry in strong contrast to his meat production past. But he never lost his magic touch with meat, smoking the most delicious brisket, chicken, pork, and jerky and generously sharing with friends and family.
He became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where he loved serving in many capacities, including as a teacher, in Bishoprics, and on Stake Councils. He was a humble and devoted disciple of our Savior Jesus Christ and exemplified this by the life he lived.
Donnie Ray’s health was a challenge for many years, but he carried on cheerfully, always responding with “better than I deserve” when asked how he was doing. He could never sit still, even after moving became more challenging, and he didn’t watch tv shows or movies. He would only sit to watch the news and sports if he had a project to work on, usually the shelling of walnuts from the trees on their farm. In later years, despite deteriorating health, he carefully continued to work outside, moving irrigation pipes, repairing equipment, and tending to the animals and yard. He proudly stated that though his body was declining, “it’s not from rust” but rather from being thoroughly worn out.
Donnie Ray was adored by all his children and grandchildren and beloved by his large and devoted extended family. He was witty, charming, loving, and encouraging. Everyone who knew and interacted with him always felt better after talking with him. He will be sorely missed, and always treasured and fondly remembered.
He is survived by his beloved and devoted wife, Valeri, his nine children and their spouses, 32 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren, his brother Danny Dunn, and his devoted canine companions, Carly and Lizzie. He was preceded in death by his sister, Cecile Glausier, and a granddaughter, Madison Fletcher.
Funeral services will be held at 12:00 on Saturday, September 16, at the LDS chapel at 5237 West 10400 South (Utah Ave.), Payson, Utah. A viewing will be held at the chapel on Friday evening from 6:00-8:00 and just prior to services on Saturday from 11:00 - 11:45. Internment will be in the new section of the Pleasant Grove City Cemetery, 800 North 100 West, Pleasant Grove, Utah, at 2:30.
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