Anthony P. Donadio Jr., 84, longtime announcer on local radio, television

September 14, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Anthony Prosper Donadio Jr., who was an announcer on Baltimore television and radio stations for more than three decades before going to work for the state Drug Abuse Administration, died Thursday at St. Joseph Medical Center after being injured in an automobile accident. The Towson resident was 84.

Mr. Donadio, who was known to his listeners as "Don Anthony," was born in Indianapolis and raised on Springlake Way in Homeland.

Mr. Donadio's parents encouraged his theatrical and musical ambitions. His mother, the former Violet Carmelina Panden, had been a member of the Panden Sisters, a dancing and singing act, and performed on the old Keith vaudeville circuit before her marriage.

He was a 1938 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School and earned a bachelor's degree in speech and drama in 1942 from the University of Notre Dame.

During World War II, he served with the 8th Air Force in Europe as a member of its special services, which entertained troops. One of his wartime highlights was performing in the musical Skirts and giving a command performance for England's Queen Elizabeth, the mother of the current queen.

After the war, Mr. Donadio studied drama with the Rev. Gilbert V. Hartke, who founded the drama department at Catholic University of America, and with Metropolitan Opera diva Rosa Ponselle at the Peabody Conservatory.

While studying at Peabody, he met and married his wife of 51 years, the former Nancy Russell, who was a vocalist.

Mrs. Donadio was critically injured in the automobile accident on Stevenson Lane in Towson, and remained hospitalized yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

In the early 1950s, Mr. Donadio was a regular performer on the Nick Campofreda Show, a five-day-a-week talent program that aired afternoons on WAAM-TV -- now WJZ.

"The show combined talk, sports and singing, and he was one of the singers," said a brother, R. Richard Donadio of Timonium.

Mr. Donadio garnered attention in 1954 for his performance of "Ave Maria" on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, which aired nationally. "After winning the Talent Scouts, he appeared weekly on Arthur Godfrey's show for a year," his brother said.

In Baltimore, Mr. Donadio worked as an announcer for radio and television stations, including WWIN-AM and WMAR-FM, until 1980, and singing in church choirs.

A devout Roman Catholic, he had been a member of the choirs of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, Immaculate Conception and St. Mary of the Assumption, where he was a parishioner.

Mr. Donadio was a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Third Order of Carmelites and the Legion of Mary.

"He was a wonderful and honestly decent person, and I was always so impressed by his sincere humility and devotion to his religion," said retired WBAL-TV sports anchor Vince Bagli, who worked with him at WWIN.

After leaving WMAR in 1980, Mr. Donadio went to work for the state Drug Abuse Administration. In the role of "The Cool Cat," he spoke to elementary school pupils on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. He retired in 1987.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Mary of the Assumption, 5500 York Road.

In addition to his wife and brother, he is survived by two daughters, Elizabeth Donadio of Severn and Mary Anne Hebbel of Salem, Conn.; another brother, Robert E. Donadio of Timonium; seven grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

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