Donetta Browning was born on September 12, 1936 to Don and Lillian Browning in the coal mining town of Logan, West Virginia. Donetta was a beautiful young girl who modeled and was even the Logan High School Homecoming Queen. Don’t let her beauty queen background fool you, Donetta never lacked toughness, often delivering cars from her father’s dealership across the treacherous West Virginia mountains when nobody else would.
Donetta attended the University of Kentucky where she was President of her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta. She also met the love of her life, Abraham Lincoln Collinsworth. Abe fell immediately in love with the feisty Browning, often saying she had the most beautiful name he had ever heard, and that “Donetta Browning” was like music to his ears. Abe proposed with a simple sign in his dormitory window, “MARRY ME DONETTA?”
Both Abe and Donetta were proud educators who loved working with young people in Lebanon, Ohio. Abe loved coaching, barely missing the birth of his first son Cris while coaching a basketball game for Kings Mills High School. While that story was told many times to the detriment of Abe, it did set the tone for an athletic family. Donetta made sure that it did not happen again with the birth of their second son, Greg.
In 1963 Donetta took their two boys by train to Winter Park, Florida where her parents had moved. Abe was already busy in Florida looking for a job. They soon both found teaching jobs in Melbourne (then Eau Gallie), Florida. Donetta refused to stay in Winter Park because the local schools lacked air conditioning for her boys.
In 1973 Abe became the first principal at Titusville Astronaut High School. Ironically, Donetta’s father, mother, and Sister Betty’s family had already moved to Titusville making for an easy transition. High School sports and Sunday fish fries for the extended family became part of the weekly routine. Cris and first cousin Scott went on to receive football scholarships and Greg received a basketball scholarship following in Abe’s footsteps. But Donetta was always quick to keep each of them in their place, once challenging and beating Cris in a backyard, barefoot race after he had done a little too much bragging about his speed.
Most of the coaches at Astronaut who worked for Abe, would freely admit that they were much more afraid to confront Donetta than Abe. She was a fierce advocate for her family. Abe and Donetta rarely missed one of their son’s high school or college games, traveling the country with friends to continue doing what they had always done, putting their family first. A tradition both Abe and Donetta carried forward watching their grandchildren’s games and events.
Donetta had great flair with everything she did. She loved anything that sparkled, the color red, animal print clothing, and flashy jewelry. Her signature red purse meant she was ready for business. She once showed up for a dinner in a new blonde Jennifer Aniston wig which only added to her legend. The brighter the lights twinkled the more she liked it, making Christmas her favorite time of year.
Abe’s retirement led them to New Smyrna Beach and eventually back to Orlando where their son Greg lived. Their hearts were broken when Greg died of colon cancer at age 42 in 2004. Then again when Abe died of cancer in 2012. She will be laid to rest after 86 years of dedication to her family, next to Abe and Greg, at Dr Phillips Cemetery.
Donetta (Grande) leaves behind her loving family, son Cris Collinsworth, his wife, Holly Collinsworth, grandchildren Katie (Patrick Hughes), Austin, Ashley (Jared Briley), Jac and great- grandchildren Hollyn, Beau, and Sophie Hughes. Donetta also leaves behind her lifelong best friend/sister Betty McCallister, her sister-in-law Brenda Browning, and many nieces and nephews.
The family would like to thank three very special people, Letitia Fant, Catina Almenas, and Zona Holness for their compassion, dedication, care, and friendship.