John Barry Donohue, Jr., known to friends and family as Jack, died in the Richmond, Virginia area on Thursday, March 21, 2019 as a result of injuries incurred when he was struck by a large SUV while walking in his neighborhood on February 23, 2019. Always conscious of his health, Jack walked a mile or two in his neighborhood almost daily for exercise. He lived in Wyndham for over twenty years and loved it – he said with affection that “it was like living in a park.” He was in the pedestrian crosswalk at Old Wyndham Drive and Wyndham Lake Drive when the crash occurred.
Jack was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 8, 1942 to John Barry Donohue, Sr. and Loretta Northrop Donohue. His mother was a teacher and his father, with whom he was especially close, was a New York City Fireboat Captain. Jack grew up in Malverne, New York and was the eldest of three brothers, Bill and Steve, who he respected and cherished.
Jack loved his four daughters (Stacey, Emily, Stephanie, and Megan), his birth family, his country, the practice of law (he called it a craft that brought him much joy in its practice), swimming (preferably in the ocean), tennis, American history, military history (the art of defeating your opponent), ships (especially the S.S. John Brown and N.S. Savannah), political debates, spirituality later in life, and learning always (often through reading).
Jack’s children were the center of his universe. His many friends report that he rarely held a conversation in which each of his four daughters were not mentioned by name. His life’s work was to make sure they were prepared in every way. His daughter, Megan, wrote that “He was more than a father, he was our biggest fan, mentor, closest advisor and friend. In the face of failure, he never let us give up.” Indeed, one of his most frequently repeated phrases was “Donohues never give up.” Jack was a good-natured parent with endless encouragement and supportive words for his children. He never pushed his children to be anything other than who they are, even when their paths were not his own.
At age 72, Jack bought a black corvette – which stunned, albeit pleasantly, his family and friends. After his death, his brother, Bill, remarked that the corvette purchase was surprising because it was the only time Jack ever bought anything for himself– everything he ever had was given directly to his children or set aside for their future benefit.
Jack’s spiritual life was characterized by a deep love of the Catholic church and an equally deep understanding that many other paths also lead to God. Following these beliefs, he insisted on holding bishops accountable for their active role in enabling child abuse. Late in life he made a renewed effort to connect with God and asked that his funeral service homily emphasize that “it’s never too late to get off your butt spiritually.” He participated in several prayer groups, taught and found profound meaning in St. Ignatius of Loyola spirituality, and re-read The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, annually.
His favorite place was Bethany Beach, Delaware. For over 50 years, the Donohue and Mulloy families rented houses and spent a glorious summer week enjoying the Atlantic Ocean and each other’s company. Jack would show up at the beach in the late afternoon just in time to avoid the midday sun but before the lifeguards left, so he could willfully ignore their repeated whistles as he swam a strong freestyle stroke too far from shore. A lifelong water lover, his favorite activity was swimming in ocean waves (the bigger, the better) with his children.
Jack’s sharp mind and quick wit were a natural fit for higher education. He earned a B.A. in political science from Georgetown University, a J.D. from Villanova, and a Master of Laws from George Washington School of Law. After law school, Jack volunteered for Vietnam, was promoted to Captain, served as Port Commander of Qui Nhon, volunteered as a JAG Corps officer, and was awarded a bronze star. Upon returning home, he began a superb career as a trial lawyer, specializing in business and employment law, and spent most of his working life as Chief Litigation Counsel at Reynolds Metals Company. Outside those responsibilities, he also taught at the University of Virginia School of Law. Jack later joined the firm of Thorsen & Scher, where he relished defeating big companies in favor of individual clients. He also continued as General Counsel for Reynolds Development until he died.
Jack is survived by his four daughters, Stacey Donohue, Emily Donohue Speer (William Speer, III), Stephanie Donohue, and Megan Donohue, from marriage to Patricia Donohue; a grandson, William Speer, IV; his brothers, Stephen and William (Joan) Donohue. He was preceded in death by his loving parents.
A funeral mass will be held on Wednesday, April 3, at St. Michael’s Catholic Church (4491 Springfield Road, Glen Allen, Virginia 23060). Visitation with his family will start at 12 p.m., Mass will be at 1 p.m., with a reception in the parish hall to follow immediately.
In lieu of flowers, please email look for pedestrians while driving and consider a donation to Bike Walk RVA at 804-285-9495 ext. 248, or to the Liberty Ship S.S. John Brown at (410) 558-0646 or www.ssjohnwbrown.com.