Cover photo for Donis Annalee Eichhorn's Obituary
1929 Donis 2024

Donis Annalee Eichhorn

October 23, 1929 — June 19, 2024

Carmichael

Donis Annalee Baker Eichhorn, Carmichael, CA, age 94, died peacefully in her sleep at home on June 19, 2024, with her loving husband of 69 years, Erwin A. Eichhorn, age 95, beside her. She leaves behind her husband, her three children, Robert Eichhorn, Rebecca Eichhorn, and Nancy Eichhorn, and her grandchildren Jordan Schoen and Sophia Schoen. 

Born on October 23, 1929, at the Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, CA, Donis grew up in Bakersfield, CA, and was often teased because she was ‘Donis Baker from Bakersfield’. A third-generation Californian, Donis was the granddaughter of Sophie G. Baker and Francis Baker, pioneer families of Calaveras County and the California Mother Lode, and of M.C. and Pauline Elizabeth Billingsley from Martinez. She was the cherished daughter of Erma and John Leslie Baker and a loving older sister to Robert Baker; all preceded her passing. Some of her favorite memories include meeting her best friend Georgia Lee Morrison in the back alley behind their homes when they took out the trash and riding their bikes to Dewar’s Candy Shop for hot fudge sundaes with peppermint ribbon ice cream, picnicking with her dear friend Marsha McKee, spending her summer vacations with her family in Sequoia National Park, and attending church at the First Presbyterian Church Bakersfield, which she discovered on her own and went weekly because she loved the social connections and community support. She graduated from Bakersfield High School, aka the Drillers. She was a member of the Scholarship Honor Society and upon graduation was awarded the Joan O’Sell Scholarship and went on to Bakersfield College where she interned at Miss Freise’s Maternity Hospital. Working alongside Minnie Freise, a World War I nurse, Donis found her passion for taking care of babies, which became her lifelong pursuit.

She transferred to the U.C.S.F. School of Nursing where she earned her B.S. and R.N. in Nursing in 1952. She served as treasurer of the Nursing Student Body, president of her class, and secretary of the California Club. Donis’s friend, Tom Nicholson, suggested she meet an intern he knew at the San Francisco City and County Hospital, where Donis was an instructor in communicable disease nursing at the time. 

Little did they know on that fateful first date that they were destined to be lifelong lovers and ‘movers and shakers’ in the fields of obstetrics and infant-parent mental health. After several dates, they knew they were meant to be together. So, they drove to the Sequoias to join Donis’s parents at their annual family vacation to announce their marriage plans. Then, Donis’s love for her betrothed gave her the courage to take her first airplane flight from California to Chicago, where Erwin was going to intern at the Chicago Lying-In Hospital. They drove to Erwin’s parent's home in Saginaw, Michigan to tell them of their intent to marry. Donis, trusting in God all her life, knew she was in good hands with the ‘son of a preacher’. The Reverand and Mrs. Jacob Eichhorn met Donis and learned she was a nurse and a teacher and immediately approved of the marriage. 

They were married on November 21, 1955, at Saint John’s Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, CA. Donis resigned from her faculty position at the Highland Hospital, Oakland, CA, as an instructor in Pediatrics and Obstetrical Nursing, and moved to Chicago to begin their lives together.

Wherever they went, they were a medical team. Donis taught obstetric and pediatric nursing and Erwin cared for his patients. They spent time in Waco, Texas where Erwin served his country as the OB/GYN at the James Connally Air Force Base while Donis taught nursing at the Providence Hospital. Their son, Robert, was born in September 1956. When Erwin’s term was up, they moved back to San Francisco. Erwin completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology, and Donis gave birth to their two lovely daughters, Rebecca and Nancy.

They settled in the Sacramento Valley where they became a positive force in the field of “family-centered obstetrical care” and the burgeoning field of parent and infant mental health including their work with Tom and Amy Harris in transactional analysis (I’m OK—You’re OK). They eventually opened their Family Centered Obstetrical Care practice and changed the face of prenatal and postnatal delivery and care. Donis and Erwin were instrumental in bringing families into the delivery room, introducing Lamaze into the Sacramento Valley, and offering post-natal care and education courses for new parents. During this time, Donis also taught at Sacramento City College School of Nursing and was part of the original faculty at the American River School of Nursing. 

Donis was a lifelong learner, always on the ‘cutting edge’ when it came to babies, parents, and mental, physical, and spiritual health. She organized and became the director of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program at U.C. Davis, earning her master’s degree in Maternal and Child Nursing and her Doctorate in Marital and Family Therapy. Over decades of service to her field, Donis collaborated closely with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton (Touchpoints), Thomas Verny (they co-authored a paper on the Beginning of the Formation of an Emergent Sense of Self), Daniel Stern (who studied the most minute interactions between mothers and baby), Gerhard Schroth (Prenatal Bonding, BA), Edward Tronick (Napa Fellowship Program), Magda Gerber (the RIE Approach and the Art of Becoming), Stanley Greenspan (Watch, Wait and Wonder), Kathryn Barnard (Child Interaction Theory), as well as actively participating in related organizations such as Zero to Three, the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH), and the World Association for Infant Mental Health (WAIMH). 

Her work eclipsed the boundaries of specific associations and organizations—she was instrumental in uniting people and their cause to the benefit of babies and parents, and their families locally and globally. She organized and became the director of the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program at U. C. Davis where she was an Associate Clinical Professor and taught at the Center for Child and Family Studies. In the early 2000s, she and Erwin dedicated the Eichhorn Family House on the U.C. Davis campus to support ongoing studies in parent and infant interactions.

In 2011, Donis was diagnosed with Stage 4 Large Cell B Lymphoma. She resiliently survived four recurrences including two rounds of chemotherapy, one clinical trial, and then working with her oncology team at Stanford University using a drug that had never been used before to treat a woman in her 80s with recurring lymphoma. During all of this, she was actively involved in her last research project incorporating mindfulness into labor and delivery to dampen parents’ stress levels that impacted their soon-to-be newborn child.

Aside from her immense professional achievements, Donis loved spending time with friends and family (she was a ping pong wiz and Kings’ Corner champion). She loved to tap dance with her dear friend Helen Jean Lambert, play the piano and clarinet (she was first chair in her high school band), ski in Sun Valley, Idaho (seeing Sonja Henie’s movie Sun Valley Serenade Donis had to go), travel abroad and knit Muk Luks to keep her family’s feet snuggly and warm. She developed close friendships in her local neighborhood as well as with colleagues and students, many of whom are still closely connected today. 

Her faith never faltered, giving her peace throughout life and as she approached death knowing God was there for her. Donis was an active member of Fremont Presbyterian Church, Sacramento, and a church elder. She and Erwin valued their time reading the bible, sitting together in prayer, learning at the ‘Table’, and being part of the summer camp in the Santa Cruz mountains. 

Donis was a positive energetic force, willing to jump in saying, “Let’s make a plan”. She believed that “if there’s a will, there’s a way,” and that if “one is good, two is better.” She had a “bluebird” on her shoulder and good fortune shined down upon her wherever she went. She carved numerous pathways in educational and nursing fields, family care, and welfare all the while loving her family and friends deeply and dearly. She embraced her motto, “You all come” welcoming all to join her and share in her adventures. 

Her burial services will be on June 25, 2024, at 10:00 am at East Lawn Cemetery. Heritage section, Row 14.

There will be a Celebration of Life in the Fall. Details will follow.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Student Funding Office, UCSF School of Nursing. Email SONStudentFunding@ucsf.edu for information. Or to a charity of your choice.

 

 

 

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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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