In Memory of



Obituary for Terri McDonnell

Terrilyn “Terri” McDonnell (nee Williams), a loving mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend passed away peacefully on October 21, 2023, at her home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her husband, Paul, at her side.

Terri was born in Milford, Iowa to J. Thomas Williams and Sharlene Leith. Her father was a prominent farmer and businessman in Northwest Iowa and her mother was a homemaker. Terri relished being the 17th cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, even though she only recently discovered the familia connection.

While in high school and as an undergraduate, Terri spent her summer vacations working on her blended family’s farm in Creston, Iowa after her mother remarried. She was very accomplished on horseback and had an extensive role along with her siblings and step-siblings in raising the French bred Saler cattle.

Terri pursued her passion for helping others by obtaining her undergraduate degree in Social Work from Iowa State University. Furthering her education, she was awarded her master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa. Terri worked as a Social Worker at Methodist Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, specializing in pediatric trauma patients.

In her desire to continue to help others, Terri started a successful health care recruiting agency and for 32 years she took great pride and enjoyment in helping others grow and achieve their professional goals.

Terri emulated her father’s sense of entrepreneurship, physical exercise, being active and possessing a large sense of adventure. She hiked and camped at the bottom of the Grand Canyon on two occasions! When she was younger, Terri ran numerous 5k races. Later in life, she switched to walking, maintaining a 25 mile weekly average. Throughout her cancer journey, Terri’s strong determination and tenacity was inspirational and remarkable to friends and family as she continued to walk daily, even while in hospice.

Terri lived in multiple cities, building an extensive network of friends. Once a family was added, making adventurous moves together, she ensured they had a comfortable home. She especially enjoyed the excitement that came with living near New York City. Terri made it a point to teach her daughter, Elena, the thrill of being adventurous as well.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Terri insisted the adventures continue. As soon as she recovered from the Whipple surgery, an operation to remove cancer from her pancreas and surrounding lymph nodes, she and her husband traveled around the United States for three months in their newly purchased Airstream camper.

Even when in hospice care, Terri ensured she would experience life to the fullest by attending Elena’s wedding to Jonah Golomb in Pittsburgh.

Terri’s cause of death was Advanced Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer. Terri wished for patients and caregivers facing Stage IV cancer to not lose their Hope of living beyond expectations. Having Hope and Faith allowed Terri to live for 28 months after receiving her diagnosis.

Terri also wanted to express her sincere gratitude to her friends and family who did an enormous amount during her journey with cancer; especially, for all the prayers, meditations and positive thoughts on her behalf. She was very grateful for all the meals that were provided for almost 10 straight months, the rides to her chemotherapy and radiation appointments, and everyone who made having the Whipple surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore almost effortless.

The family wants to express their deepest thanks to all the healthcare providers at Amedisys Hospice Homecare, John Hopkins Hospital, the Cancer Institute of Allegheny General Hospital, Costco pharmacy at the Waterfront, and Trulieve Squirrel Hill dispensary.

In honor of Terri, the family will hold a Celebration of Life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a church service in Creston, Iowa, at a later date. Details will be forthcoming.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Cancer Bridges (, a non-profit organization in western Pennsylvania helping those impacted by cancer.