Donna Jeanine Filkins

Donna Jeanine Filkins

EAST BERNE — Donna Jeanine Filkins — who, as a bartender, served “everyone from lawyers to outlaws,” her sister said — “accepted everybody for who they were.”

Her sister, Connie Filkins, went on, “She saw the best in people; she trusted people.”

A lifelong resident of East Berne, Donna Filkins died quietly at home on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016. She was 60.

“Donna was a generous and kind-hearted person, blessed with an uninhibited sense of humor and quick wit,” her sister wrote in a tribute. “In recent years, she led a quiet life, always grateful for what she had and never complaining. She delighted in family get-togethers, spending time with friends, going to concerts and the movies, and simply catching rays on a sunny day.”

Donna Filkins was born in Albany, at St. Peter’s Hospital, on May 4, 1956 to the late Myron and Violet Filkins. Her father was a laborer for Callanan quarries and her mother was a homemaker.

“She lived all of her life in East Berne. She had a lot of wonderful vacations and side trips,” said her sister. “About 20 years ago, she moved into the house that had been our grandparents.”

She attended Berne-Knox-Westerlo schools where she sang in the choir and was good at her studies. “She was very congenial. Teachers and classmates loved her,” her sister said.

Ms. Filkins was also “very independent,” her sister said. “She got her license as soon as she turned 16.”

She graduated from BKW High School in 1974 and went on to earn an associate’s degree from Cobleskill in elementary education, and then a bachelor’s degree in special education from the State University of New York College at Geneseo.

“She loved children,” said her sister. “She never married or had her own kids. She babysat for everyone on the Hill. She was sought after.”

After graduating from college, for the next 25 years, Ms. Filkins “worked as a bartender in some of Albany’s most famous watering holes, making countless friends along the way,” her sister said.

“She loved to be around people...She appreciated the diversity,” Connie Filkins said of the people her sister met at the different bars she tended.

“The Colonial was a boots-and-leather motorcycle crowd,” she said. “At Pauly’s Hotel, she served off-duty police, nurses getting off their shifts, and guys with disabilities from the VA hospital. At Hurleys, she’d wait on lawyers and legislators.”

Donna Filkins had a constant companion in her dog, a mixed Labrador retriever; she named the dog after her hometown, Berne.

“She got Berne as a puppy; she brought him home in her jacket as she rode on the back of a motorcycle,” said her sister.

Berne is 14 years old, suffering from arthritis, and mostly blind and deaf. Donna Filkins hated the thought of putting down her beloved dog but had made arrangements to do it this week, her sister said. “Somebody was going to be without the other,” her sister said of the inseparable pair.

“Berne slept on the floor by her bed. When Donna walked to the store, Berne would go with her; she would buy a Slim Jim for the dog,” said Connie Filkins.

“She had a hard time the last couple of years,” Connie filkins said of her sister. “She fought hard for her recovery.”

Through it all, though, Donna Filkins kept her optimistic outlook on life. “She was funny and bubbly and loved living in the country,” said Connie Filkins. “When you saw her, she wouldn’t complain. She’d say, ‘It’s a beautiful day.’ If it was raining, she’d say, ‘Doesn’t the rain sound nice?’”


Donna Jeanine Filkins is survived by her sister, Connie Filkins, of East Berne; her brother, David M. Filkins, of Westerlo; her niece, Megan Waldron of Portland, Oregon; her nephews, Judson Filkins of West Orange, New Jersey, David J. Filkins of Altamont, and Preston Filkins of Knox; her great niece, Daisy Filkins and her two great nephews, David A. Filkins and Ari Filkins.

The family extends its gratitude “to all of Donna’s friends who supported her on her journey.”

Calling hours will be held on Sunday, Nov. 6, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at Fredendall Funeral Home at 199 Main Street in Altamont. A reception will follow at the East Berne firehouse at 25 Main St. in East Berne.

Memorial contributions may be sent to The Next Step, 2 Holland Avenue, Albany, NY 12209, online at or to the Mohawk Humane Society, 3 Oakland Avenue, Menands, New York 12204, online at

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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