Memorial to Mo Dana

From Stephen King:

NOVEMBER 9, 2006, DES MOINES, IOWA ? Mo Dana passed away in her sleep this morning, November 9, 2006, at Mercy Hospice in Johnston, Iowa.

Throughout her tenure as the executive director of the Des Moines Arts Festival and subsequently the director of the Downtown Events Group, Mo Dana received countless accolades from the local press, prominent business and community leaders, close friends, and casual acquaintances.

In her ten years in Des Moines, Mo was named a local woman of influence, as well as America?s best arts festival director. Des Moines presented her with a key to the city; a local publication even suggested a postage stamp be designed in Mo?s likeness. But, perhaps the most fitting tribute was the title Mo received from an annual best-of-Des Moines list when she was dubbed Best Human Dynamo. Dynamo was the Mo we knew and loved. Dynamo is the way Mo lived her life. It?s how she got things done. In Mo?s own words, ?I?m not good at moderation, and what I do I tend to do to a ridiculous extent.?

Mo loved her job, the arts festival, Des Moines, and the state of Iowa. She promoted her adopted city and state tirelessly to whomever would listen or could help her get things done to improve the quality of life here. She was an avid Cyclone fan, especially football and women?s basketball. She was honored to attend practices for both sports, was named an honorary coach for the football team?s intra-squad games, and became a moving fixture on the sidelines for regular-season ISU football games.

Mo laughed easily, and loudly, always spoke her mind without hesitation, and pushed for the things in which she believed ? especially her family and friends. She was once described as possessing an ?unlimited reservoir of energy and a don?t-take-no-for-an-answer spirit.? It served you well in this life, Mo. Take it with you and give ?em hell. We?ll miss you.

Monique (Mo) Dana was born in South Bend, Indiana, on March 8, 1954. The Dana family lived in several East coast cities throughout Mo?s youth, as did Mo in her adult life as a professional horse trainer before moving to Iowa in the mid-1990s. She is survived by her mother, Christiane Laroque Dana, 81; her brother, Gregory Dana; sister-in-law, Joyce Dana; five nieces; and many close friends whom she considered her family. She is preceded in death by her father, Richard Dana.

Plans for a celebration of Mo?s life are pending and will be announced at a later date. Memorial contributions can be sent to Mercy Cancer Center, c/o The Mercy Foundation, 1111 6th Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50314.

Very sad news about Mo Dana. She was definitely one of a kind. I only got to do her show once but was very impressed with her abilities and the way she conveyed her appreciation for her exhibitors. You felt that the moment you stepped into their temporary headquarters. Its always a top down thing. If the Director has problems with artists then the volunteers have problems. Mo didn’t have problems with exhibitors or the police or apparently her board. She nipped that stuff in the bud and got the job done.

She was a big supporter of the NAIA, attended the Directors Conference and the town hall meeting’s that were held during her show. She was definitely tuned in to what was going on in our profession.

She was also one of those larger then life people. She would light up a room or a discussion. And then she’d be off and as she left you sort of wanted to go with her because you just knew its was going to be doing something interesting.

Some of you guys knew her a lot better then I did. There’s a story about how she dealt with the police when attempting to place a sponsor’s cars on a pier. I don’t want to mess it up so hopefully someone will remember that story and maybe a few more.

Rick Bruno

Rick, Mo was as you say one of a kind. The world sorely needs, more than ever, the real unpretentious character that was Mo. I really miss her, and now we all need her personality and force of will more than ever.

I was at a gas station in Wyoming and my cell phone was ringing, it was Mo and she called to tell me she had great news- her cancer could not be found- a miracle for sure! I asked her if I could tell everyone and she yelled “HELL YES I AM TELLING EVERYONE”! The news of her reentering hospice and now her death are blows to my heart and to all who were priviledged to know her. I think of all my rewarding times with NAIA over the years, getting to know Mo was the top prize.

Thanks for reminding me of the car parking story. Mo told me she had sold the right to park Mercedes Benzs on the banks of the river at the art show as a sponsor promotion. After the first year some coronel in the Army Corp of Engineers (who manage those very river banks) calls Mo up and says “who gave you permission to park cars on my levees”? Mo replied “what the fuck is a levee”! The coronel said the river banks are a levee and she could not park them there and she responded “I got $50,000 for the right to park those cars there and they were doing it again next year”! The next year the cars were back and the coronel was now on her Board of Directors! Thats the Mo Dana we loved and lost.

Bob Briscoe

She really was an inspiration, could never do enough for the show, for the artists; you had a good suggestion, and her response was “Done”.

One of my favorites occurred during setup when she stopped by, and I mentioned that she had done quite a job landscaping all the port-a-johns (mounds of mulch, and bushes, trees and flowers), which sat on the street at the end of the bridge. She shook her head and said, “I ordered green port-a-johns and they brought blue ones, looks terrible………but they’ll be changing them”. A little while later, all green.

Mo also had a huge fountain, practically a garden set up on one of the bridges, with stone and soil, etc. It’s all set up and the, I guess it was a city engineer ( a rather “large” fellow), came by and informed her that there was too much weight on the bridge. Mo’s response, “Well, then you better get off “.

As you say Bob, that was the Mo we loved and lost….Michael Kopald

That was the year Mo put me in a spot that was under a large tree with huge low branches, making it impossible to set up the tent. I casually mentioned to her that I thought the booth spot was fine for people her size, but perhaps normal height people might have a problem. Her response was to move me down by those porta potties, and we had a helluva good laugh over it. It actually was a great spot, and yes, it looked like the Butchart Gardens with all the landscaping to hide them. There was never a time since then that, whenever I would see her, she told me I better “watch my ass” or she’d see I ended up by the porta potties. She said it again this year, as she walked through the show, I will never forget it.

I told Blythe that I feel Mo is (can’t bring myself to say “was”) one of the most important people in my life, many of our lives, even those who never met her. Not “close”, perhaps, as we often think of close, but then again, maybe. I feel a profound sense of loss, but also richly rewarded for having the opportunity to know her.

When I was editor of the NAIA newsletter, we ran an interview with Mo:

Don Ament

This was the story I was going to share that Mo had told. I can hear her gravely laugh as she finished telling the story.

I had to cancel the Des Moines Show the year of my breast cancer and I recieved a full booth refund. There was never any question that you knew you would be treated fairly and with the utmost consideration by Mo and her show. Forgive me Stephen King, but I will always think of the Des Moines Show as Mo’s.

Linda Steinworth

I only met her a few times but I think that Human Dynamo aptly describes her. She told us the car story. She’d gotten a hefty sponsorship deal from a local car dealer, maybe Mercedes Benz. She parked those cars on display on the Levee. Well she got calls from the Army Corps of Engineers to remove them, she responded “what’s a levee?” When told that they had to go because it might compromise the levee she said that “Hell No, they don’t go before Sunday Night, I’ve got $100,000 of their money in sponsorship to park those cars there and that’s where they are staying until then.” They stayed. Mo had moxie, and somewhere in heaven she’s organizing something right now.

Martha Giberson

This is such sad new–i had hoped she was beating her illness. all festival directors could only hope to be as good as Mo—i rem her saying at one of our directors’ conf–whatever she could do to keep costs down for the artist–how ever she could put another dollar in their pocket she would.she was such an arts advocate in every way.

rick’s right, she was a major supporter of NAIA–and because of her we gained much credibility with other festival directors.

she had so many friends in the business–we used to tease Mo,shary brown, and beth hoffman–called them “larry’s angels”(ref.larry oliverson–our former executive director) as they hopped into Mo’s sports car.

she was the best!

wherever she is—its a better place now–and will be a bit more arts friendly!!

love ya Mo,

Toni Mann

Here are some links to the stories in today’s Des Moines newspaper and televison’s website about MO!


I am saddened by her death and honored that I had the opportunity to work with MO. NAIA was responsible for many of us(Show Directors) to have experienced each others work and personalities.
Thank you for introducing me to a fantastic colleague!

Cindy Fitzpatrick

Memorials posted here on the NAIA site and Member Forum.

Leave a Reply