Beloved Trucker Takes Final Ride as Dozens of Big Rigs Convoy in His Honor
(Video at the bottom)
Seymour, IA – A trucker beloved by his community was laid to rest this week with a fitting tribute to a life well-lived.
Two dozen big rigs joined in a convoy and led the way in a funeral procession for long-time Iowa-native and trucker, Donnie Jellison.
Jellison, who was only 56 years old, suddenly passed away on Wednesday, February 5, after falling ill in December.
Mike Jellison, 58, of Seymour, is Donnie’s brother and owns a small trucking company, Jellison Trucking, which Donnie drove for.
Mike tells Transportation Nation Network (TNN) trucking has been a way of life for his family since his father, Donald, got his authority in 1967 and hauled livestock from California to the east coast.
“We grew up trucking. It’s just who we are,” Mike declared. “It’s in our blood.”
While Donnie drove a truck for a living, Mike says Donnie’s real passion was working on them.
“That’s really what he loved doing more than anything.”
Donnie began tinkering in his father’s shop at a young age and earned money as a teen repairing lawn mowers.
It eventually led him to much bigger projects like building muscle cars and fixing trucks for the family trucking company.
In fact, Donnie was so skilled at fixing trucks that truckers came from miles around for his help.
“He worked for peanuts,” Mike recalls. “He never really charged anybody anything. That’s the way he was. He strived to help people. He found satisfaction and fulfillment in life out of being a help to people.”
Donnie’s life hit a rocky road a few years ago though when Rhonda, his wife and love of his life, was diagnosed with cancer.
Doctors didn’t give her long to live, so Donnie came off of the truck to care for her.
“He hardly left the house and waited on her hand and foot for nine months until she passed,” Mike explained.
After Rhonda’s sudden diagnosis and short cancer battle, Mike says Donnie was never the same.
“It was a downhill spiral.”
In December of last year after a run to the west coast, Donnie returned home with a swollen leg.
He downplayed it and blamed a new seat they had just put in the truck, but his family feared it could be serious and urged him to seek medical treatment.
Donnie resisted at first because, “he wasn’t one for going to the doctor,” Mike says.
However, he finally relented and was told he had a blood clot in his leg.
He was taking blood thinners for the last few weeks until Kyle, Mike’s son, checked on him last Wednesday.
Kyle was immediately concerned because Donnie “didn’t look good.”
He was taken to the emergency room where doctors determined Donnie needed immediate care.
He was life flighted to a hospital in Des Moines, but by that time Donnie’s blood had become “toxic.”
Donnie passed away at approximately 8 p.m. that evening.
“He was doomed that morning,” Mike sadly recounted.
Donnie touched the lives of many people around him, and on Tuesday, February 11, hundreds of people came to pay their last respects.
Among them were scores of truckers who Donnie had worked on their trucks.
“It’s a small community. My brother made a big impact on this area and several counties down here,” Mike said proudly.
According to the family, Donnie’s sons ensured their father got the “last ride” that Donnie was not able to give to his own dad.
Donnie appropriately took his final ride from the funeral home to the cemetery on the back of a big rig he worked on, owned by his nephew by marriage, Jerel Young.
The semi was driven by Donnie’s oldest son, Joel, with his youngest son, Travis, in the passenger seat.
Additionally, Donnie’s grandchildren were also able to take one final ride with their grandpa, with all seven traveling in the semi’s sleeper.
The funeral home where Donnie’s service was held posted a tribute to him with pictures of the convoy.
“What a beautiful way to celebrate his life! We’re proud to have been a part of this special service,” the post read in part.
Mike, who is also a Baptist preacher, had the honor of preaching his brother’s funeral.
“I know he believed in God and trusted in the Lord.”
Mike believes Donnie’s legacy of serving his fellow man will live on for years to come through his sons, Joel and Travis, along with his seven grandchildren and six siblings.
As for the outpouring of love and respect for his brother, Mike says he will always be grateful.
“It’s the type of unity displayed by the average blue collar American. It’s bigger than trucking… it’s America.”
Photos courtesy of the Jellison Family and Thomas Funeral Home
WATCH a video of the convoy below shared courtesy of Mary Jayne.