Donnie was about five or six years old when his grandfather John A. Hanson purchased a first horse for the boy. He spent the majority of his youth helping his grandfather and Uncle Frank Hanson on the family ranch. After the purchase of his first horse, it became his responsibility for gathering the milk cows for milking in the evenings. When he and his parents relocated to Douglas, he spent all his summers and holidays helping his Grandfather John Hanson and Uncle Frank on the family ranch and moved there permanently after graduation from Douglas High School in 1951. He spent two years in the Army stationed in Chicago and South Korea. Upon his discharge, he returned to the family ranch and continued to help his grandfather and uncle. As a young kid, he remembers trailing cattle from the family ranch to Coffee Siding east of the Nebraska state line. He says that the cattle were loaded on the rail cars and taken to Sioux City, Iowa or Omaha to sell. Donnie married Garnet and moved her and her daughters to the family ranch in March 1962, where they continued to reside until 2015. Donnie served as Commander of the American Legion Post No. 1 and VFW Post No. 3511. He was an active member of both the American Legion and VFW until his wife died in 2017.