John C. Donohue Sr., 89, longtime football referee

January 25, 2000|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

John C. Donohue Sr., a retired Baltimore insurance executive who had been active in sports and civic affairs, died Wednesday of pneumonia at Keswick Multi-Care Center. He was 89 and a Roland Park resident.

Mr. Donohue was general agent for Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co. for 30 years until retiring in 1986. He started his insurance career in Annapolis in 1939, when he went to work as general agent for the Equitable Life of Iowa.

Born and raised in Baltimore, he was a 1930 graduate of Mount St. Joseph High School, where he excelled in baseball, football and basketball.

Mr. Donohue, a first baseman and pitcher, led Mount St. Joseph to the 1931 state championship, batted .560 and won eight decisions without a loss for the Irvington school. In 1935, he earned his bachelor's degree in government and economics from St. John's College in Annapolis.

During World War II, he served in the Navy as a commander of amphibious landing craft in the Pacific.

"They were the lowest form of commissioned ship in the Navy," he told The Sun in 1970.

He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of lieutenant commander, and his decorations included the Bronze Star.

He was known locally for his many sports activities, which included being named All-America in lacrosse and All-State in football and basketball. He coached at St. John's College and the Naval Academy.

He was a longtime collegiate and high school football referee, and relatives said he was the first official to be wired for sound, at the 1958 Orange Bowl.

A member of the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, he was inducted into the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1973.

He was a past president of the Maryland Board of Football Officials; Maryland Board of Basketball Officials; and Maryland Lacrosse Officials Association.

Mr. Donohue was appointed to Baltimore's Civic Center Commission by then-Mayor J. Harold Grady and later was president of the city Elections Board from 1971 to 1973. He also was chairman of Louis L. Goldstein's senatorial campaign in 1964.

His professional memberships included the Baltimore Life Underwriters Association, for which was chairman of the board. He also had been a trustee of the National Association of Life Underwriters.

He served on the board of the Hibernian Society of Baltimore and was a member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, Merchants Club, Mount Washington Club and the University Club.

He was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in North Baltimore.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday at SS. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church, 29th and North Charles streets.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, the former Helen Dunn; two sons, John C. Donohue Jr. of Baldwin and James W. Donohue of Naples, Fla.; six grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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