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Dona Kaye Pierce Cotten was born on May 24, 1944, in Lexington, MS. Growing up in a rural, agrarian- centered area, the overwhelming tendency of young women was to settle in the area as homemakers. Dona, however, was ahead of her time. She understood the importance of education, and she embarked on an academic journey that spanned nearly five decades. Her quest began at Holmes Junior College, and she ultimately received her Master’s degree from the University of Mississippi for Women-becoming the first member of her family to earn a college diploma.
Dona had a passion for the coastal environment, and she was drawn to Florida where she spent much of her life. It is there where she met her most special friend, Jo Sisson. She and Jo shared many years together and touched thousands of lives through their endeavors as educators. Dona began teaching home economics in 1967 at Escambia High School. She transitioned to Pensacola Junior College in 1974, where after many faithful years of service, she ultimately worked her way up to Dean of Collegiate Studies. How could the Mississippi girl who moved to Florida with a Master’s degree become a Dean of Collegiate studies? You see Dona wasn’t just an educator-she was a student. In her spare time, Dona worked steadfastly to obtain her Doctorate of Education in 1981 from Florida State University. In life there is the wrong way and there is the right way—then there is the Dona Kaye way. Dona approached life with unparalleled vigor and persistence…. if it was worth doing, it was worth doing the Dona Kaye way.
Dona had a passion for education, but she had a genuine, unconditional love for her family and friends- (and FSU football) they were her world. Living over six hours away from the core of her family it would seem impossible to attend many of life’s little celebrations. Holidays, birthdays, graduations, performances—Dona didn’t miss—in fact, she was typically the first one there. Family was first and she always made it work.
As a friend, Dona was unrivaled. If you ever needed her, she was there. If she told you she would do something, she did. She was principled, organized and faithful to the end.
She was taken unexpectedly December 27. She was spending Christmas with her family—laughing, loving, and taking tons of pictures. She was living her life the only way she knew how—the Dona Kaye way.
Dona was preceded in death by her father, John Thomas “Tucker” Pierce, Jr. of Coxburg, MS, nephew, Keath Gwin Killebrew of Madison, MS, and great niece, Sara Elizabeth Killebrew.
Survivors include her mother, Helen Ferrell Pierce of Ridgeland, MS; brother, John Thomas Pierce III of Jackson, MS; sister, Kathy (James) Jones of Greenwood, MS; sister, Pam Killebrew of Madison, MS; niece, Dr. Heather Kaye Killebrew Tutor (Sonny) of Madison, MS; nephews, Heath Killebrew (Mary Taylor) of Greenwood, MS, Curt Jones (Leslie) of Sumrall, MS, and Matt Jones (Heather) of Benton, MS; great- nieces, Lyndsey Tutor, Julia Killebrew, Katherine Killebrew, Vivian Killebrew and Olivia Killebrew; great-nephews, Hayden Tutor, Wyatt Jones, Warner Jones, Pierce Jones, Jon Wiley Jones and Keath Gwin Killebrew Jr.
Funeral Services were held on Thursday, December 30, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. at Harland Creek Baptist Church in Coxburg, MS, with visitation from 10:00 a.m. until service time. Interment followed in Malone Cemetery. Pallbearers included Clarence Pierce, Mike Pierce, Randy Causey, Sonny Tutor, Hayden Tutor, Curt Jones and Matt Jones.
Wilson and Knight Funeral Home is in charge. Online guest book may be signed at

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