Thursday, June 27, 2002

Obituary: Donald R. Donovan, veteran of Iwo Jima

Tire company owner had been star athlete

By Rebecca Billman,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SYMMES TWP. — In the fall of 1941, Donald L. Donovan entered Xavier University on a basketball scholarship.

        That December, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Mr. Donovan traded uniforms to enlist with the Marines.

        With the 4th Marine Division, the handsome athlete survived fierce fighting, including battles at Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima.

        He came home to rejoin the Muskies and finish his education, but didn't speak of the horror of the war until Iwo Jima's 50th anniversary. That's when the dam broke.

        “I was scared to death. The lines were cut. They told us to go ahead and we knew we didn't have a chance,” Mr. Donovan told a reporter in 1995.

        Married to Betty Wehmhoff Donovan for 56 years, he raised eight children. And in 1970, Xavier inducted him into its basketball hall of fame.

        Mr. Donovan died Monday from complications of pneumonia at Hospice of Cincinnati in Blue Ash. The Symmes Township resident was 79.

        Growing up in East Walnut Hills, Mr. Donovan rose early every day and rode his bike in the dark to St. Ursula Convent to serve the 6 a.m. Mass.

        “It was a daily act of courage,” said his sister, Puck Schoettmer-Stoeckle of Mount Lookout. “He was afraid of the dark.”

        Mr. Donovan played several sports at Purcell High School, but it was his excellence in basketball that earned him a spot in Purcell's basketball hall of fame and a college scholarship.

        After college, Mr. Donovan worked for Firestone Tire Co. before opening his own store in Pleasant Ridge. After he retired in 1982, the Donovan Tire Co. was turned over to his sons.

        Other survivors include six sons, Dennis and Dale, both of Kenwood, David of East Walnut Hills, Dean of Amberley Village, Darryl of Deer Park and Donald of Southgate; two daughters, Deborah Downard of Ozark, Mo., and Dawn Gunderson of Mount Lookout; another sister, Betty Schaller of Milford; and 18 grandchildren.

        Visitation is 5-8 p.m. today at Gilligan Funeral Home, 8225 Montgomery Road, Kenwood. Mass of Christian burial is 10:30 a.m. Friday at Nativity Church, 5936 Ridge Ave. in Pleasant Ridge.

        Memorials: Hospice of Cincinnati, 4310 Cooper Road, Cincinnati 45242; or Purcell-Marian High School, 2935 Hackberry St., Cincinnati 45207.


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