A Wonderful Life: Donna Skeen

By Leslie Moore

If life is, indeed, what we make it, then Donna Skeen has made a wonderful life. She is surrounded by the love of friends and family, has a successful career, a beautiful home situated on a deep water creek in Murrells Inlet where she lives with a wonderful man and a great English Pointer named Belle, and is attractive and healthy. It has not always been this way for Donna; her idyllic life was achieved through hard work and the determination to be happy.

Southern Snaps: Donna Skeen

Upon meeting Donna, the first things you notice are her beautiful hazel eyes and infectious smile. Our visit was full of laughter and fun. Although we had planned to go to lunch on Donna’s pontoon boat, “Large Marge,” a rainstorm prevented the boat ride, but not the pleasure of getting to know this remarkable woman.

Born in High Point, N.C., Donna grew up the only child of doting parents. A tomboy at heart, Donna spent her childhood fishing and riding horses on the family property. She remembers going to see Elvis Presley in concert when she was 12 or 13, not knowing much about him. “I knew this man was special when he spat out his gum and the girls at the concert fought over it! After the show, I waited in line to get an autograph. When I got to the front of the line, Elvis looked at me and asked, ‘Are you a little boy or a little girl?’ When I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I was a girl, he gave me a kiss on the forehead and I got my autograph.”

At age 15, Donna had a party that was to change her life forever. There, she met a handsome college man who crashed the party and won her heart. By age 17 Donna was married to Jerry Skeen and had a newborn daughter. A son soon followed, and Donna settled down to raise her children and be a good wife to her husband.

In her 30s, Donna, a natural athlete, decided to try her hand at tennis. “I immediately knew that this was my game,” she said. She quickly became a top player in High Point, and here on the Grand Strand where she spent her summers, earning dozens of trophies that now line several shelves in her home. Through friends at her tennis club, Donna was chosen to work with the spokesperson for one of the big furniture companies in High Point. The spokesperson was Bobby Riggs. Donna would take the names of buyers who wanted to play Bobby and arrange for them to lob a few balls with him. Donna herself was able to play Bobby, who easily beat her with his spin and cut on the ball. It was so frustrating that Bobby told Donna to bring her doubles partner, Jan Moffitt, and he would play them two on one, and they beat him!

On the surface Donna’s life was perfect. Her children were thriving, and she and her husband were well liked in the community. But there was a skeleton in the closet. Jerry, who had been a Golden Gloves Boxing champ, was an abusive husband. Looking back, it is so hard for the woman she is today to believe that she stayed in that marriage for 23 years and put her children through the things that happened. There is a pattern that abusive partners nearly always fall into. I’m so sorry, I’ll never do it again…but they do. The only way to change the pattern is get out. Leave town and start over. And that is exactly what she did.

Eventually, her beloved tennis became her salvation. The tennis pro at Grand Strand tennis club, Larry Rizzo, had become a friend through the years, and he told her that if she would leave Jerry, he would give her a job. So, finally, in 1980, after 23 years of marriage, Donna was able to muster the courage to leave. She came to the Grand Strand with nothing; no job, no money and no possessions. By then, her daughter was married, but her son came with her and they lived in the camper that had been their summer home for so many years at Ocean Lakes Campground. Larry made good on his promise, and she started putting her life back together with the help of her tennis buddies. On a rainy day in 1983, Donna was doing her laundry at Monk’s Laundromat in Garden City and noticed an extremely handsome young man watching her. He came over and introduced himself and, amazingly, another 23 years have gone by with the love of her life, Daryl Faulkenberry.

When I asked her how she managed, Donna told me that “her parents had raised her to think she could do anything and had encouraged her to be self-sufficient.” Gradually, Donna regained confidence and success soon followed. “I just took things one day at a time.” After the job at Grand Strand Tennis Club, Donna sold advertising for Coast Magazine until 1986 when she began selling commercial printing. Daryl also worked for Coast as a commercial artist.

Today, Donna has an enormously successful career with Wilen Press. This company is loaded with young people who think outside the box. Although she is probably the oldest person in their organization, she has no plans to retire. Her customers have become friends over the years and she loves doing business with them. Donna and Daryl entertain their many friends, both at home and on their boat, and she is loved by all who know her for her kindness and generosity towards others. Her son, Chip, and daughter, Abbie, are both married and live in N.C. Donna sees them and her grandchildren often. It truly is a wonderful life.

When I asked Donna what advice she would give to women in abusive situations, she said, “Get out! Leave town and make a new life. It will not change. And the big one… your girlfriends are the ones who get you through the rough spots in life. All my girlfriends in High Point helped me then, and when I moved here, I was fortunate enough to meet a group of women that became my support. We call ourselves the Murrells Inlet Mermaids. There are about 15 of us, and we get together each Wednesday night, and let me tell you, that is the absolute best support group ever! Not one of us takes valium or needs a therapist because we have each other. Girl friends are GOOD… family is GOOD…life is GOOD.”

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.