A Memorable Memorial Service
For Jeffrey Donahue
Today I was asked to participate in the memorial service for fellow Unitarian Jeffrey Donahue. Jeffrey and his then wife (now divorced) Rita came to SCRC in the late 1990s. They had moved to HHI from Wayland, Massachusetts. They said they knew Mercy and Bats through Mike and Sue Hazard.
A few years ago, Jeff and Rita divorced. About the same time, Jeff joined our Unitarian Congregation and became quite active. Within a couple of years, Jeff and Mary Alice Walker started getting close. Mary Alice had lost her husband, Bill, and she and Jeff became friends. Mary Alice and Bill were friends of Pat and mine. I served with MA as secretary of the UU when she was president. She’s bright, attractive, and friendly. She and Jeff made a neat couple—both in their eighties.
Within a week of each other, both Jeffrey and his former wife, Rita died. Jeff had pneumonia and then a massive stroke. Rita had been ill for the past couple of years, and died just a few days before Jeff died. Neither knew of the other’s passing.
Mary Alice got to know Jeff and Rita’s family (three women and one man) after their father had his stroke. Their oldest daughter, Julie was down caring for her mother and met Mary Alice ahead of her siblings. They all quickly became friends.
Mary Alice and the Donahue family invited me to their dinner at a great Italian restaurant Friday evening. There were 30 Donahue’s in all; from Canada, California and Massachusetts. What a close, super and attractive family with two sets of twins. They welcomed me albeit the sadness of the occasion.
I was struck at the similarity between the Donahue family and we Haskells! The way they interacted with each other and talked about their growing up; singing songs in their car on their way to their New Hampshire house. Drinking beer while they ate pizza. Just having fun together with a father who they all loved. Jeff was, indeed, a friendly guy who brought joy to everyone around him and I was privileged to enter into the Donahue family for one evening.
The next morning I was the one person outside of their family to be on the program at Jeff’s Memorial Service. I said the following:
JEFFREY DONAHUE (1927 – 2016)
I first met Jeffrey and Rita at Pat and my theatre on Hilton Head. They became avid theatre fans. I could always count on Jeff’s telling me exactly how he felt about a show with his comments on the way out of our theatre—fortunately, most of them were favorable.
As a fellow, former New Englander, I appreciated Jeff’s frankness and great sense of humor! He was a nifty guy who enjoyed life and made everyone feel good around him. We talked about New Hampshire, where I often skied at Cannon Mountain. Jeff knew my twin sister, Mercy and her husband, Bancroft Wheeler in the Boston area. My sister is a good friend of Sue and Mike Hazard, whose children are close friends of the four Donahue adult-children. I was fortunate to spend last evening with the extended Donahue family and I now know why Jeff was so proud of them.
Jeffrey became an active member of the Unitarian Church that my own parents help found in the 1970s. They too, came from New England, where my Grandfather was the Unitarian Minister at the First Unitarian Church of Plymouth, Massachusetts. I was so pleased when I heard that Pat and my long-time friend, Mary Alice and Jeff had become close friends.
My Grandfather, Reverend Alfred R. Hussey wrote the following poem, which he first delivered on this exact same date—93 years ago to the memory of Clarence Erskine Kelley, of the Astronomical Dept. of Harvard University. I read this today in honor of my friend, Jeffrey Donahue:
Another star has blazed into the sight
Of watchers on far mountain tops. Nova they name
This new-found sun:
just now the light
Has reached this earth.
On this same night
Another soul has passed from out this world;
An old astronomer his sail has furled
And drifted on the tide beyond the fight.
Another star has lit the evening sky:
Is not this gleaming point of distant light
A tribute to a life whose patient years
Were spent searching with faith's steadfast eye
To find the truth writ far beyond the night
Made dark by human strife and human tears?