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Jean E. McDonnell, 89, longtime owner of the Wright County Journal-Press and The Drummer, passed away peacefully at Buffalo Hospital on June 30, 2022, surrounded by her loving family.

A native of Buffalo, MN, Jean was born November 17, 1932, on the family farm on Dean Lake. She was the daughter of Louis and Anna Wandersee.

Jean enjoyed her years of being raised on the family farm, and always had a compassionate heart for animals. She had several pet animals on the farm, including a pig and leghorn rooster. Jean learned to drive a Farmall H tractor at age 10 to help with alfalfa haymaking for her brother, Harvey, who was 11.5 years older than her.

During her growing up years, Jean attended both the Crawford and Ilstrup Country Schoolhouses, of Buffalo, and graduated from Buffalo High School with the Class of 1950.

Jean remembered with fondness her first date with Jim McDonnell, Jr. (that did not happen) when he pulled up to the house with his 1947 Harley Davidson motorcycle. He had forgotten to ask his parents for the car. Jean’s father, Louie, heard the loud rumble of the Harley, and told Jim to turn around, go back down the steps, and never come back! Thankfully, two weeks later, Jim reserved the family car, and they went out on their first date to the very nice Muller Theatre in Maple Lake… and the rest is history.

On June 26, 1954, she married the love of her life, James P. McDonnell, Jr., her high school sweetheart and classmate. The couple lived in Buffalo briefly before leaving for Texas together when Jim entered the Air Force.

Jean and Jim were blessed with three children. Two of their children were born during their Air Force years. Daughter, Cathy, was born at Laredo, Texas in September 1955 and son, Jim III, at Altus, Oklahoma in November 1956. Their son, Tom, was born at Buffalo Hospital in November 1959, after the family returned home.

By the time their kids were all in school, Jean began working regularly at the newspaper. She started by helping out with the weekly mailing when they were shorthanded, but before long was deeply involved full time in the day-to-day operations. Jean and Jim continued working together for more than five decades.

In November of 1971, Jim and Jean founded The Drummer, as a new shopping publication providing blanket coverage across the greater west metro trade area to better serve advertisers and readers.

Both Jean and Jim enjoyed traveling together whenever there was enough time to get away. She enjoyed riding motorcycle with Jim, as well as flying with him on fun trips. Decades later in their careers, they were thankful for the chance to load up the van in mid-January and drive the long road to Arizona for a couple of months of glorious sunshine to take the frost off their old Minnesota bones.

Whether their path ahead seemed easy or difficult, they took each stride together and always remained soul-mates, even as their wedding anniversaries numbered into the 60s.

Jean always had a smile when thinking back on time spent with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, which included numerous trips to skating rinks, gymnasiums, concerts, and other school events, as well as quality time spent together.

Jean’s survivors include: daughter, Cathy (Frank) Schiefelbein III, of Kimball; son, Tom (Char) McDonnell, of Buffalo; and daughter-in-law, Kris McDonnell, formerly of Buffalo. Also surviving are 14 grandchildren; 24 great-grandchildren; several nieces and nephews. She is preceded in death by her husband, Jim Jr.; son, Jim III; parents; sister, Marie (Doug) Madsen; brother Harvey (Irene) Wandersee; and sister-in-law, Marilyn (Lloyd) Legacy.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held for Jean on Thursday, July 28, 2022 at 11 a.m. with visitation from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Buffalo, with inurnment at St. Francis Cemetery.

10 Guestbook Entries

  1. Gretchen Bergman

    I am so sorry for your loss of Jean and she was so very special to me since I left now I am from Arizona my heart is hurting 💔

  2. Jean Nystuen Reynolds

    What a beautiful angel! Smile and greetings will be missed.

  3. Lori Quady

    So sorry to hear of Jean’s passing ,such a sweet,kind, beautiful woman. Our hearts go out to you.

    Lori and Bruce Quady

  4. Judy Bergstrom

    So sorry to hear of Jean’s passing. I have known Jean since I was 12 years old, when I used to babysit for her 3 children. We lived across the alley from each other. Jean was always such a beautiful lady in so many ways. Praying for God’s peace to surround Cathy & Tom and your families.

  5. Janet McDaniel

    What a sweet soul Jean was. I had the pleasure of taking care of her yard and gardens for many years. She was always happy to see you and of course have conversation. She LOVED to talk, God bless her! I, and Buffalo, will miss her smiling face.

  6. Barbara Lofgren

    So sorry to read about Jean’s passing. I worked at the Journal Press for several years and she was such a kind and classy lady! Always had a smile for you. My prayers and condolences to you family.

  7. Warren Smith

    She was always a classy lady. The Smith Family of Monticello always responds with fond memories of Jean whenever her name comes up in conversation.

  8. Carole Larson

    I was saddened to hear of Jean’s passing. Don and I knew Jean and Jim for many, many years as neighboring publishers.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you. Jean was always such a a gracious lady at the annual Minnesota Newspaper Association conventions.

  9. Linda Vollbrecht

    It was heartbreaking to hear of Jean’s passing.. She was absolutely one of the sweetest ladies I know.. My dad, Phil Brown, went to school with her & Jim.. They had sooo much fun whenever they saw each other !!
    I was in the same grade as her son Jim, and became friends with Cathy in high school.. I loved being around her parents & miss their smiling faces & hugs..
    Jean LOVED her family & all those grandchildren & greatchildren.. She was sooo proud of each & everyone of them !! She’d always ask about my family & when I in return asked about hers, her face would light up and she would start telling me about who was doing what at that time … lol
    Jean will be missed as one of the truly great ladies of Buffalo.. I’m sorry I couldn’t make the funeral.. my arthritis doesn’t allow me to stand or walk far.. but my thoughts were with the family.. sending lots of love & prayers of comfort.. knowing you have many beautiful memories..

  10. Jan Robertson

    May God be kind to your soul. RIP


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