Former Sewickley Herald editor was dedicated to community, craft

Friday, August 9, 2019 | 6:00 AM

Dona Dreeland had a quick wit, a passion for words and an appreciation for any writer who knew how to turn a phrase.

“She focused more on quality writing than anything,” said Adam Brandolph, a former Tribune-Review reporter who got his start at the Sewickley Herald. “It wasn’t always just the ‘who, what, when, where, why,’ it was, ‘Can you turn a phrase?’”

Dreeland delighted in clever wording, which she worked into her own writing. In a 2011 story about cobblers: “The ideal of recycling might be in our hearts, but it could be in our soles.”

“If she pointed out anything in a story it was, ‘Oh, I really like the way you worded this,’ more so than, ‘That was a good quote,’” Brandolph said. “She gave her heart and soul to the newspaper.”

Dona S. Dreeland, of Bellevue, died July 27, 2019. She was 69.

Born July 30, 1949, to the late Frank and Kay Storm, she spent years editing and writing for the Sewickley Herald and other publications both in and out of the Trib Total Media network.

Dreeland was destined for journalism, said Madelyn Dinnerstein, former editor of the Trib’s North Journal who worked with Dreeland.

“She really thought that everybody had a story,” she said. “She loved hearing those stories and sharing them with other people. She just loved talking to pretty much anybody she met.”

Dreeland also reveled in being a part of – and contributing to – the communities she covered.

“Dona was the type of person who really cared about community. She loved the Sewickley Valley so much,” said Bobby Cherry, who worked as a reporter for Dreeland when she was editor of the Sewickley Herald.

“She just loved being part of the Sewickley community – loved the fact that what we were doing with the Herald was part of the history in the community,” said Cherry, who later worked as the Sewickley Herald editor.

For a time, the Herald’s office moved to Pittsburgh in a building on Greentree Road. Staff would eventually move back to Sewickley. When that happened, the community threw a party.

“They brought her flowers and gifts and treats and cookies and what not because they were just so excited to have her back and have the paper back,” Cherry said.

Brandolph recalled just how happy Dreeland was to again have a physical presence in Sewickley.

“She imparted on reporters who worked for her that the Sewickley Herald was an establishment – it had a long history, and it was a part of the community as much as the library,” he said.

There were stories everywhere, Dreeland believed, and each deserved to be told. She loved birds and history but had great disdain for technology, longing for a simpler time. When she began writing for the South Hills Record in the early 2010s, she didn’t have a cell phone, and she called in her stories from nighttime council meetings on a payphone.

Above all, she cared deeply for her reporters and colleagues.

“It was not the typical reporter-editor relationship,” Brandolph said. “We talked generally just more about life. We had so much fun in that office. She took a lot of pride in the younger reporters she worked with.”

Cherry agreed.

“I remember I’d be trying to leave the office and I would be like, “Alright, Dona, I’m leaving,’” he said. “Three hours later, I’m still there, and we’re talking about the meaning of life and how email has ruined it.”

He continued: “She just lived such a simple life that so many of us take for granted. I think she tried to get all of us to understand that while we love our cellphones and computers and Facebook, that living a simple life can be rewarding.”

Dreeland is survived by her sister, Denise Wallace; nieces Jessica Williamson, Lindsay Wallace and Nicole Wallace; and great-nieces Adelaide and Wren Williamson.

Her family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Little Sisters of the Poor or Animal Friends.