Longtime City of Brotherly Love Softball League member and cheerleader extraordinaire Donna Mae Stemmer died last week of a heart attack. She was 82.
The Pennsauken, N.J., resident served in the U.S. Army for more than 30 years, in combat and peace, and was decorated 25 times, reaching the rank of Lt. Col. Most recently, in 2008, Stemmer received a Distinguished Service Award and Commemorative Medal at a ceremony in Voorhees, N.J. Stemmer also worked as a lawyer.
A member of CBLSL’s Key West Wolves team, she was well known for her bright cheerleading outfits at games. Last year, she was awarded the CBLSL Steve Lehman Community Service Award in recognition of more than two decades of participation in the league, including attendance at countless games, 13 league banquets, five softball world series and 18 tournaments.
“Donna Mae was best known for showing up to games or events in a shiny cheerleading outfit. For those closer to her, she was so much more,” said CBLSL commissioner Kevin Armstrong. “Donna Mae exemplified what it was like to live a life of service. A member of our armed forces, Donna Mae fought for the values and freedoms of our country, but also for social change, both locally and nationally. Donna Mae was an individual unafraid to be herself. She never apologized for what she did nor felt ashamed of who she was.”
Philly Pride Presents executive director Franny Price remembered Stemmer as the life of any party or event.
“We all love Donna. An event wasn’t official until she showed up,” Price said.
Price met Stemmer in the 1970s and recalled how at ease Stemmer was in her own skin.
“There used to be buses that left from 13th Street and took people out to Reading for the Reading Picnics and I remember her being there in the summer in uniform. There were never any issues,” said Price. “She would be talking to the police and park people like it was nothing.”
Robert “Sandy Beach” Hitchen recalled Stemmer’s support for his performance career, as well as for events throughout the city.
“I met her when she came down to Atlantic City for the Miss America parade, in the mid-’80s. When I moved to Philly, she was one of the first people to root me on as a performer,” Hitchen said. “She supported everything: Bingo, softball, parties — you knew if you had an event and she was there, it was a good event.”
Stemmer was featured in a 2008 PGN article that chronicled her attempts to have her headstone reflect her female name and CBLSL affiliation. At the time, she was denied the request because LGBT references violated headstone guidelines at Arlington National Cemetery, where the Korean War vet was eligible to be buried.
Stemmer’s funeral was held July 1 at Brigadier General William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery in Wrightstown, N.J.