• In Memoriam: Carrie Donovan Ford

    POSTED February 5, 2019

    Remembering Carrie Donovan Ford’s contributions to Minnesota tourism.

Last July, the Minnesota tourism industry was shattered to learn of the passing of Carrie Donovan Ford, a longtime fixture with the Roseville Visitors Association. She was known for her attention to detail, supportive presence on any project and love of another Minnesota native—Prince. Those who were lucky enough to work with Carrie are still feeling the absence of her bright spirit. Our condolences go out to those that knew her best, including her husband and two daughters. A few of her colleagues offer their remembrances and tributes here.

“I had the pleasure of working with Carrie for over eight years at the Roseville Visitors Association. Carrie loved the hospitality industry … Carrie is the reason we are accredited by Destination Marketing Accreditation Program (DMAP) today. She gave 100 percent and our organization was all the better because of that. She truly left a legacy.” —Julie Wearn, CDME, Roseville Visitors Association

“Carrie was like the big sister I never had. From our first trade show back in 2006 to play dates with my two kids and her two girls, Carrie helped me in so many ways throughout my career and personal life. ‘Care Bear,’ as we affectionately called her, was the person I could call on and share everything with. Carrie was known by so many people, was passionate about her work and kept busy at home with her loving husband and two girls, yet always found time for you. I feel blessed having met her and thank her for all the great memories we shared together.” —Michael Hernandez, Meet Minneapolis​

“Carrie was a great co-worker and friend. I was lucky to have been able to work with Carrie and Roseville even back when I was at Visit Saint Paul. She was so easy to talk to and happy to share Roseville with the rest of the world. Carrie was the first to always be involved and help with groups coming into the Twin Cities area. I knew I was fortunate to work with her every day once I realized how many people loved her light, smile, energy and passion for this industry.” —Shannon Thomasser, Roseville Visitors Association​

“Carrie was a Minnesota tourism icon with a wealth of industry knowledge. I would not be where I am today without her advice and guidance. She took me under her wing when I started my tourism career in 2007 at Meet Minneapolis and would always go above and beyond to make me feel included and introduce me to her clients, friends and colleagues at trade shows and events. She was always there for me professionally and personally. She is irreplaceable, and I miss my dear friend and colleague every day.” —Casey Kluver, Meet Minneapolis​

“Carrie always brought so much knowledge, creativity and fun to the table. She really took pride in the area she represented. She had a huge presence and therefore has left a huge void in our industry and our hearts.” —Jessica Dodge, Explore Minnesota​

Originally from Ontario, Heather Odendaal got her start in event planning early, serving as her high school’s head of social events. She ended up on the West Coast, courtesy of her studies at the University of British Columbia, and launched her career in Whistler, working for the resort in marketing and events. Today, she’s CEO of Bluebird Strategy, a boutique event planning firm, and CEO and founder of WNORTH, a global community of women who have their sights set on the C-suite.


You may not have seen her name among Chicago’s James Beard award nominees or caught in the buzz of another trendy eatery opening, but the ripples of Rita Dever’s culinary creations have made an impact far and wide. After cooking around the world, the Pacific Northwest native put down roots as Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ (LEYE) associate partner and corporate chef where she collaborates in the company’s test kitchen to innovate new dishes for all LEYE restaurants.


Denver native Keisha Makonese’s passion for planning events dates way back. Her latest gig as director of sales and corporate events at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum began nine years ago. In this role, Makonese helps oversee an average of 150 private events at Wings Over the Rockies each year, from making meetings for 20 people to annual dinners for 2,000 fun and interactive experiences.