Mission Hill remembers its ‘Queen of Disco’

A week after the death of disco icon and former Mission Hill resident Donna Summer, her old home on Parker Hill Avenue still bore flowers and notes in memoriam of the star.

Donna Summer was a five-time Grammy award winner who sang and wrote landmark songs during the 1970s and ’80s, including “Love to Love You Baby,” “Last Dance” and “She Works Hard for the Money.” Her long singles—like the 17-minute version of “Love to Love You Baby”—were disco club staples and helped define the genre.

LaDonna Gaines—known in later years as Donna Summer, the “Queen of Disco”—lived at 16 Parker Hill Ave. until she moved to New York City shortly before graduating high school. She died on May 17 of lung cancer. She was 63.

“Donna was a nice girl. She always used to get the kids in the neighborhood together, to do plays and stuff like that,” Summer’s aunt Rita Rogers told the Gazette. “The kids remember her for that.”

Mary Jane Cassiani, a former Mission Hill resident who was a “close friend” of Summer from age of 7, said she remembers seeing Summer and her sisters and cousins singing off the back porch of the Parker Hill Avenue house as if it were a stage.

“Who would have known it was a preview of fame?” she said.

The house on Parker Hill Avenue, now owned by family friend Harrison Lee, had pictures, notes and flowers left on the front porch by friends and fans of Summer, including Cassiani.

“People want to express their sympathy. She was a great singer,” Lee told the Gazette last week.

A current resident is bemused by the attention. Qiu Qin, a resident at 16 Parker Hill Ave., told the Gazette that “It’s different in China,” referring to the display on her front porch.

Lee added he recently repainted the porch pink in honor of Summer, “for cancer,” he said.

Maurice Martin contributed to this article.

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