Donald Clyde Runyan (1928 - 2021)

Millie Hall Runyan (1935 - 2021)


Donald C. Runyan (alias "Doc" and "Papa") was born on August 1, 1928, in Wellington, KS, one of seven children of Edwin Nathan and Dulcie Florence Larmer Runyan. He served in the army and was stationed overseas during the Korean Conflict.  He graduated in 1956 from Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, with a degree in Music Education.

He met Millie M. Hall, daughter of Howard and Anna Katherine Hall, while at UC.  She had been born in Waterloo, Iowa, on May 4, 1935, and attended and graduated from Oak Park Academy before enrolling at Union College. Following their marriage on August 4, 1956, they moved to Cicero, Indiana, where Donald had accepted a music teaching position at Indiana Academy.  While at IA, he completed a master's degree in music at Indiana University.

In 1963, they moved to Hamburg, Pennsylvania, where for five years he taught music and she served as dean of women at Blue Mountain Academy.

In 1968 the family moved to Collegedale, Tennessee, where Don taught voice and directed the choirs at Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University, and Millie served as Head Dean of Women.  While there, he completed a Ph.D. in Music Education/Vocal Pedagogy at Peabody-Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and Millie completed a bachelor's degree in Behavioral Science in 1980 at SMC.

Donald led the choirs at Southern for nearly twenty years. During that time, working together with Marvin Robertson, music chair, they jointly produced a number of fully-staged musicals, including The Music Man, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, Amahl and the Night Visitors, and others.

In 1987, the Runyans moved to Robinson, Illinois, where he led the Music and Theater Departments at Lincoln Trail College until 1993. Millie earned a Master’s Degree in counseling from Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, in 1991.  After his “retirement” in 1993, Don continued to teach part-time at LTC as an adjunct professor until 2015. He also taught private voice lessons in his home until finally fully retiring in 2018 at the age of 90. During his time at LTC, Don founded and directed the Children's Summer Theater Workshop which introduced area children to the performing arts.

Millie found her true calling as the Team/leader/Mental Therapist at Southeastern Illinois Counseling Centers, Inc. in Robinson. Following her retirement in the fall of 2000, she worked with at-risk youth at the A.C.E. Afterschool Program until 2010.

Don was a member of the Robinson First United Methodist Church, where he served for many years as Choir Director. While the Runyans treasured their church family, his and Millie's lifelong quest for understanding Scripture, exploring spirituality, and connecting with God eventually led them out of denominational affiliation and into the belief that God is Love and Love transcends organized religion.

During his "retirement" Don opened "Papa's Bookstore" in Robinson, where he shared his love of literature with the community at large. He served on the Crawford County School Board and The Robinson Library Board and was a member of the Robinson Kiwanis Club. Doc performed in many LTC theater productions and was active in the LTC Choir until age 89.

He believed in giving back to the community which had made his family so welcome and was passionately devoted to promoting arts and education in Crawford County.

In 2015, the Runyans were invited to return to Southern Adventist University on Homecoming Weekend, where their contributions to life and music at the uiversity years earlier were remembered and celebrated by former students and colleagues. It was a profoundly moving and meaningful experience for both of them and their children.

He was a devoted father who loved his children. His daughter, Jolie, a singer, recently recalled phone calls where they would sing duets together, challenging each other with preplanned lists of music associated with famous composers, singers, and genres to be done on their next phone call.

Following an accident at home in January 2021, Donald was admitted to the hospital for treatment of an injury to his back. On Sunday, January 24, 2021, he died of complications from spinal surgery in Champaign-Urbana, IL, at age 92.

Don was remembered as a lifelong learner and teacher, a devoted patriarch who taught his family the meaning of unconditional love and forgiveness. He was a charismatic, tender, quirky, generous, and loving man who lived with gusto and grace, a gift to all who knew him.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Edwin and Dulcie of Wichita, Kansas, his siblings, Edwin (and Grace) Runyan, Nina (and Sanford) Hay, Phyllis (and Hershel) Davis, Oren "Rusty" Runyan, Randy Runyan, Faith Runyan and Max Runyan, who both died as children. He is survived by his sister Carol Patton, whose husband Jerry was regarded as a brother, and numerous nieces and nephews, as well as his cat Newby.

Millie, the love of his life and best friend for over 64 years, died from a stroke on July 8, 2021, at age 86. She was known for her work as a dean of women and devotion to helping those in need and her work with her A.C.E. students.  Her biological children called her "The Giving Tree" for the many ways she nourished and sustained their lives. She was predeceased in death by her parents and siblings.

Don and Millie live on in their children: Dani Pitt of Robinson, IL, Rhonda (and Chris) Leuber of Watertown, TN, Jolie Runyan (and Ron Finkbiner) of Surprise, AZ, and Kevin (and Angela) Runyan of Granger, IN. They leave behind five treasured grandchildren: Benjamin Pitt, Brooke Pulley, Anika (and Trey) Currie, and Destin Finkbiner (and Madeleine Feuquay), Sophia Runyan and seven great-grandchildren: Danielle Arndt, Faith Pulley, Isaiah Pitt, Rain and Griffin Panetti, Irelann Currie, Aesa Finquay and one great-great-grandson, Mikolaus Arndt.


Dan Shultz/2022

Sources: Ancestry.Com;,  https://www.tributearchive.com/obituaries/19811961/Dr-Donald-Clyde-Runyan; Interview/conversation with Jolie Runyan, March 7, 2022; https://www.goodwinefuneralhomes.com/obituaries/Dr-Donald-Clyde-Runyan?obId=19811961; https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/name/millie-runyan-obituary?id+6133711; Dan Shultz, Music at Southern Adventist University, www.iamaonline.com