Born: September 24, 1922
Professed: July 11, 1953
Ordained: June 1, 1957
Died: March 11, 2020
Donald Joseph LeMay, the oldest of five children, was born on September 24, 1922 to Edward and Alice (Demers) LeMay of Cloquet, Minnesota. Donald attended the Catholic Grade School of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart graduating in 1936 and then enrolled at Cloquet High School.
After graduating from high school in 1940, Donald decided to work before going on to college and secured a job at the Northwest Paper Company in Cloquet. With the start of World War II, Donald was notified in 1942 to report to Fort Snelling and was surprised by his classification as a 4-F because of a heart murmur. Donald continued at his office job at Northwest Paper until 1944, when he decided to leave his job and attend Saint John’s University. Because of the war, enrollment at Saint John’s was small, allowing for students to become acquainted with the Benedictine monks who impressed Donald with their devotion to prayer and personal interest they took in each student. Donald recalled that his freshman year in college as one of the happiest years of his life.
As the war continued, military entry standards were relaxed and by the middle of August 1945, Donald was on a troop train bound for Little Rock, Arkansas. He was assigned to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.
After his discharge from the army, Donald returned to Saint John’s and continued studying for his B.A. degree in business and economics, graduating in 1949. From 1950-51, he worked for Golden Rule Insurance Company in Lawrenceville, Illinois. He liked his employment but did not feel fulfilled. The local pastor, Father Mannion, a former World War II chaplain who had been badly wounded in the war, inspired him and when he died suddenly in 1951, Donald decided that he would return to Saint John’s and begin studying for the priesthood. He entered the novitiate of Saint John’s Abbey in 1952, receiving the religious name of Lanfranc, and professed vows as a Benedictine monk on July 11, 1953. After his novitiate, Lanfranc continued his studies for the priesthood and was ordained on June 1, 1957. He resumed his baptismal name of Donald after the Second Vatican Council.
In the summer of 1957 Father Donald studied Gregorian chant with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Purchase, New York.
From 1957-61, Father Donald taught Gregorian chant and theology in Saint John’s Preparatory School and University. In 1961 he became the first Director of Admissions for Saint John’s University. Father Donald recalled “I enjoyed admissions so much, always making a point of trying to remember the name of every student I met and keeping tabs on students after they enrolled.”
In 1974, Father Donald was appointed Director of Planned Giving, beginning his long career in development for the abbey and university. He became widely recognized as the “grandfather of planned giving” in Minnesota. With his many development calls and travels, Father Donald probably distributed more Johnnie Bread to friends and donors than any other monk. From 1981-84, Father Donald served as Vice President of Saint John’s University Institutional Development and then Director of Planned Giving until 1989. He continued his role as senior stewardship officer of the abbey and university until his retirement in 2002.
Father Donald enjoyed immensely social gatherings of alumni and friends as well as within the monastic community. He often attracted attention as a versatile piano accompanist at community sing-alongs at times treated also to Father Donald’s famous bread pudding! Students fondly remember Father Donald on the keyboard and Father Gordon Tavis OSB playing the violin or trumpet on Wednesday nights for many years in the campus pub, Der Keller. Favorite oldies included When you and I were young, Maggie, When Irish Eyes are smiling, and Take me out to the ball game.
At the Saint John’s University homecoming in 1999 Father Donald was given the Father Walter Reger Distinguished Alumnus Award. His warmth and personal touch made him an exceptional ambassador of good will to generations of alumni and friends of Saint John’s. Father Donald embodied the sense of hospitality for which Saint John’s is known and went out of his way to make guests feel welcome. Even in retirement he stayed busy visiting and keeping in touch with friends of the abbey and university with whom he had become acquainted over his long tenure. Father Donald not only helped people in making planned gifts, he was ever present to them as a generous, loving and affable minister.
Father Donald died on March 11 in the retirement center at Saint John’s Abbey. He is survived by a brother, Edward, Boston, additional immediate relatives, and the community at Saint John’s Abbey. The monks, family, and friends celebrated the Eucharist of Christian Burial for Father Donald at 3:00 pm on March 17 in the Saint John’s Abbey and University Church. Interment was in Saint John’s Cemetery following the service.
We ask each community member to offer two Masses according to the manner of his participation in the priesthood of Christ. We commend our brother, Donald, to your prayers.
Abbot John Klassen OSB
and the monks of Saint John’s Abbey