Howard County

Donora 'Donni' Dingman-Willemain

Donora "Donni" Dingman-Willemain, a former Verizon executive who was active in Howard County civic affairs and a member of the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame, died March 19 of pancreatic cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care. She was 63.

Donora Dingman, the daughter of a cartographer and a homemaker, was born and raised in Wheaton.

After graduating in 1964 from Einstein High School in Kensington, she earned a bachelor's degree in zoology from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Ms. Dingman-Willemain earned a master's in business degree from what is now Loyola University Maryland in 1996 and completed a fellowship a year later in change management at the Johns Hopkins University.

She began her business career in 1966 at the old Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. as a customer service representative and then moved into the field of information technology.

Ms. Dingman-Willemain later joined the company's external affairs department. At the time of her 2007 retirement, she was an assistant vice president for external affairs, where her responsibilities included local video franchises.

"Donni was a powerful force in the community," said Susan Butta, director of public affairs, policy and communications for Verizon and Ms. Dingman-Willemain's former team leader.

"She was always willing to help her teammates by bringing her years of expertise to bear on any project. She was never complacent," she said. "Donni had a strong work ethic and made many contributions to the business and the community."

A resident of Columbia for more than 30 years, Ms. Dingman-Willemain was a strong advocate for women's rights and became a founding member of the Howard County Chapter of the American Business Women's Association.

She also was an active member of Network 2000, whose goal was to mentor women and increase the number of women on corporate boards.

She was named three times as one of Maryland's Top 100 Women and is a member of the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.

Active in Democratic Party politics, Ms. Dingman-Willemain had served on the transition teams for Howard County executives Ken Ulman and James N. Robey.

She was a founding member and had been chair of the Howard County Development Authority and had been director of the Columbia Foundation, where she chaired its grant review committee.

Ms. Dingman-Willemain had been a founding member of the United Way Community Partnership and the First Tee of Howard County. She was also an active member of the James Rouse Entrepreneurial Fund, the Howard Hospital Foundation and the Howard County Police Foundation.

She had chaired the board of the Columbia Center for Spiritual Living and had been a member of the Commission on the Future of Howard Community College.

"Donni was a force of nature in so many aspects of Howard County life," Mr. Ulman said.

"Her love of the arts and our community made her a staple of several boards, councils and foundations - and all were made better because of her presence," he said. "I will miss her indomitable spirit."

Even though she had been diagnosed with and fought breast cancer and skin cancer, Ms. Dingman-Willeman didn't let the illnesses slow her down.

"She was a strong leader and was busy in both her personal life and community involvement," said Jessica Feldmark, who is the county executive's chief of staff. "She had a great spark and was a lot of fun."

Ms. Dingman-Willemain was an accomplished watercolorist and also worked in pastels. She also was a quilter and photographer.

She was an active member of the Baltimore Watercolor Society, the Maryland Pastel Society, the Maryland Art League and the Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers Society of Washington.

Examples of both her watercolors and pastels are in the collection of the Artists' Gallery in Columbia, and a one-woman show of her work is set for May 20 at Slayton House in Columbia.

She was a founding member of the Columbia Festival of the Arts and the Delaware Watercolor Society, and was on the boards of the Olney Theater Center, the Howard County Arts Council and Maryland Citizens for the Arts.

A world traveler and hiker, Ms. Dingman-Willemain often combined hiking with art and art workshops when traveling abroad.

She married David Willemain, her companion of 11 years, in August in an outdoor ceremony that was held in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Willemain is an engineer with the Baltimore City Department of General Services.

Ms. Dingman-Willemain donated her body to the Maryland Anatomy Board.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. April 3 at Slayton House, 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Columbia.

In addition to her husband of seven months, she is survived by her father, Lester Dingman of Beaverton, Ore.; a sister, Sharon Rocha of North Plains, Ore.; a nephew; and two nieces.