Local literacy volunteer leaves an artistic legacy


Donna Jean Augello, a literacy volunteer who acted in community theater and sang in her parish choir, died Oct. 12 in Sunset House, where she lived for 15 years. She was 89.

She had Alzheimer's dementia.

Mrs. Augello was a mother of nine, her youngest three months old, when her husband, Joseph, 41, died Jan. 18, 1963. He was news director of radio station WOHO and was in his third year of law school at the University of Toledo.

"It was hard," daughter Christine said. 

Mrs. Augello had been a music major at what is now Wayne State University in Detroit, where she met her husband. They married in 1943. As a respite from her duties as a single parent, she acted in productions of the Cathedral Players, the acting troupe of Rosary Cathedral parish, and the Village Players, her daughter said. She had featured roles in A Man For all Seasons and Separate Tables.

She sang in the Rosary Cathedral choir and the Sweet Adelines vocal group. At home, she led Christmastime singalongs from the piano. She'd been a church organist in the Detroit area.

"She was a very talented woman, very intelligent," her daughter said. "She was a good singer." Her brother, Gordon Smith, was a longtime trumpeter in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Her son Tom plays the saxophone and sings. Terri, a daughter, acts, and a granddaughter, Alicia Keys -- Terri's daughter -- is a renowned pianist and singer and songwriter.

"We have a lot of musical people," daughter Christine said. Mrs. Augello and Alicia shared a birthday; both played the piano, and when she went to New York to care for her granddaughter, "Mom made sure she did her lessons," daughter Christine said. "They were pretty close."

She was born, Jan. 25, 1924, to Irma and Thad Smith and was a graduate of Redford High School in Detroit. 

Surviving are her daughters, Christine VanKoughnet, Mary McCarty, Susan Matteoli, Teresa Augello, Donna Linkfield, and Anne Stockard; sons, Michael, Joseph, Jr., and Thomas Augello; 23 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held Saturday in Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral. Arrangements were by Coyle Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to; Sunset House, or Rosary Cathedral Parish.