Jo Ann Donnelly (nee McCarthy), age 94, of Grand Rapids, MI, formerly of Forest Hills, NY, Birmingham, MI, Harbor Springs, MI, and Scottsdale, AZ, died in her sleep, of natural causes, on January 30, 2021, surrounded by family and so much love. She lived a long, wonderful, and faith-filled life.
JoAnn graduated from Georgian Court in 1948 and Columbia University with a Masters in Early Childhood Education. Though standing barely over 5 foot 3 inches, she met a tall, lanky Fordham Law School student from Toronto named Charlie Donnelly on a blind date in 1951, and despite their mismatched statures she at once realized he was the love of her life. The two were married in June of 1952 in her hometown, New York City. She adored Charlie although as a young mother she famously scolded him when he came home for lunch midweek, unannounced, telling him, “I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch.” In later years she relaxed the rule, somewhat, and after Charlie retired, she rarely enforced it (though she reserved the right to do so).
JoAnn devoted herself to her family, her Church, and community. For most of her life she attended Mass daily, and only in the last few months did she miss Sunday Mass, and even then, she tuned in by television. She exuded faith, but never pushed it on anyone, except her children and grandchildren – and always for their own good. She prayed constantly and earnestly.
She was a gracious hostess and loved to throw a party – for any reason and for no reason. Always prepared, indeed, JoAnn dressed up every day as if it were a party, complete with sensible flats, a broach, and matching bow in her silver bun. She was perhaps too particular about glassware, but once drank Grand Marnier from a shot glass at a roadside tavern up north under exigent circumstances.
Throughout her life JoAnn cultivated wonderful friendships. She nourished long-standing relationships but always had room for new friends, as the dear women of Beacon Hill will attest. JoAnn spent a lifetime quietly making sure people were seen and heard and loved. In later years, however, she had a complicated and sometimes fiery relationship with Alexa, as her neighbors at Beacon Hill would confirm.
Generous with her time and talent and treasure, JoAnn was especially devoted to the Christ Child Society chapter in Detroit. Upon retirement and moving from the Detroit area, she co-founded Christ Child Society chapters in Northern Michigan and Phoenix. AZ. When her children were young, she served as a Girl Scout leader and worked tirelessly to ensure all children had opportunities to grow and thrive in the schools where she volunteered. She was also active in the Village Women’s Club among other groups. She volunteered until the last days of her life, founding the Mary Martha Guild at Beacon Hill.
Her husband, Charlie, preceded her in death (2012), as did her infant daughter, Anne Marie (1961), and her sister, Mary Catherine (2015). JoAnn leaves behind her children, Charles (Lyn) Donnelly, Sister Mary Donnelly, OP, Kathy Rogers, Mark (Susan) Donnelly, David (Rose) Donnelly and Joanna (Scott) Dales; grandchildren, Sean (Courtney) Donnelly, Mark Joseph Donnelly, Anna Grey (Daniel) Mims, Sarah (Frank) Fischler, Jessica (Rich) Cook, Zachary Rogers, Peter, Megan, Joseph, Katherine, and Ella Donnelly, Charles, Jack, and Will Dales; and her great-grandchildren Elliot Donnelly, Aurelia and Elora Fischler, and Grayson Cook, and many special nieces and nephews.
The family will formally celebrate her life when it is safe to do so. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in JoAnn’s memory to Christ Child Society of Phoenix (4633 N. 54th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85018, https://www.christchildsocietyphoenix.org/index.html), Christ Child Society of Northern Michigan (P.O. Box 132, Harbor Springs, MI 49740-1430 https://christchildsocietynorthernmichigan.com/), or Beacon Hill Benevolent Fund, (1919 Boston Street, SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506, https://beaconhillgr.org/foundation/)