Donna Lee Schaeffer
Published: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 6:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 6:04 p.m.
Donna Lee Schaeffer, a former assistant professor of music and later a medical writer for UC San Francisco Medical Center, died Wednesday in Santa Rosa after a long battle with cancer. She was 82.
Born June 12, 1930, to Polly and Archibald Bush in Billings, Mont., Schaeffer was one of five children. The family moved to New Jersey and Schaeffer eventually enrolled at The Boston Conservatory. As an 18-year-old, Donna met Louis Mulvey who taught at Boston University and the pair eventually married.
Schaeffer continued to study music, but her career took a bit of a hiatus in the late 1950s when her husband got into a legal battle with a former employer over a patent, said her son, Jonathan Mulvey of San Anselmo.
The family moved to Mexico for two years and then traveled the U.S.
“My first couple of years were traveling in an AirStream trailer all over the country while they found a place to settle,” Mulvey said.
The family moved to Palm Springs in 1964 and Schaeffer continued to study music, eventually getting a degree in musicology from UC Irvine.
Schaeffer eventually divorced Mulvey.
“It was a strange situation for her because basically she asked for a divorce and they didn't quite know how to deal with it,” Jonathan Mulvey said. “Back then a woman couldn't rent an apartment without a husband's consent or her father's. She got her own lease in her own name. She went to the county and argued the point. She basically filed a challenge.”
In 1979, Schaeffer got a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and went on to become a medical writer after a short stint reporting in Europe.
“She came back and got a job at the UCSF plastic surgery department,” Mulvey said. “She did all of the writing and publishing and medical writing in books and journals for the plastic surgery department.”
In 1998, she moved to Sebastopol and in 2008 moved to Santa Rosa.
She remained active in politics and issues her entire life, her son said.
“She was active in the Democratic Party and Green Party in Sonoma County and Marin County,” he said.
“She was very sharp witted, intellectual,” he said. “If she had a rap name, it would be ‘Snappy D.' ”
In addition to her son Jonathan, Schaeffer is survived by her daughter, Sara Meyer of Sebastopol; son David Mulvey of Palm Desert; and three grandsons.
A service will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday at Mulvey's home in San Anselmo. Call Deborah Yates at 510-914-2800 for directions.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Schaeffer's name to New York Women Composers at newyorkwomencomposers.org.
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