OBITUARY

Jeffrey William Donahue

July 28, 1950September 21, 2013
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Jeffrey William Donahue of Stamford, CT died on September 21, 2013 surrounded by family in his home in Stamford after a long battle with melanoma. He was 63 years old. Jeffrey is survived by his beloved wife Eileen Tully Donahue, daughters Kerry Donahue Shepski, Kelly Donahue, and son-in-law Scott Shepski. He was one of twelve children, and is survived by siblings Denny, Jack, Gingi Donohue, Donny, Timothy, Patrick, Christopher, David, Anne Geary and Mary Grella. He is also predeceased by his parents Alphonsus & Virginia Donahue, and his oldest brother Alphonsus III.

Born in the Shippan neighborhood of Stamford, CT on July 28, 1950, Jeffrey was a graduate of The King School, attended John Carroll University, and graduated from Emerson University in 1974. In 1976, Jeffrey and his brother Timothy moved to Florida to open the first of a chain of Ben Franklin stores. It was in Gibsonton, Florida where he met his future wife, Eileen. The two married in 1978 and over the next 35 years of happy marriage lived across Florida, Pennsylvania and Georgia, before eventually settling back in Connecticut.

Jeffrey was a dedicated and successful businessman, working primarily in the field of telecommunications at companies Dial Page, Adelphia, Telcove, Atlantic Partners and UCT Coatings. Though he loved his work, Jeffrey was quick to admit he was happiest singing, sailing, or being with his family. In Tampa, he was a member of the barbershop chorus The Heralds of Harmony and he later formed the acapella ensemble Middle of Nowhere in Coudersport.

Jeffrey’s life will be celebrated at the Leo P. Gallagher & Son Funeral Home 2900 Summer Street Stamford on Thursday, September 26 from 5:00pm – 8:00pm. The funeral service will be held on Friday, September 27 at 10:00am at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in New Canaan, with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to the Melanoma Research Foundation (melanoma.org). Online condolences may be made by visiting www.leopgallagherstamford.com

Services

PREVIOUS SERVICES:

  • Visiting Hours Thursday, September 26, 2013
  • Funeral Service Friday, September 27, 2013

PREVIOUS SERVICES:

  • Interment
REMEMBERING

Jeffrey William Donahue

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Bob and Georgia Calhoun

December 31, 2013

Our condolences to Jeffrey's family, and to all the Donahues. It doesn't seem so terribly long ago that we all were thoroughly enjoying our King School and college years; there are so many warm, fond memories. I'll always remember Jeffrey as a big,happy kid, enthusiastic and positive, a fine friend and teammate, and regret that he left this life far too soon.

Timothy Donahue

October 31, 2013

Delivered on 9/27/13 by Timothy Donahue

On behalf of Eileen, Kerry and Scott, Kelly, the Tully and Donahue families, we welcome you and sincerely thank you for joining us today to celebrate the life of one of God’s great people, Jeffrey Donahue.
Born on July 28th 1950 Jeffrey was the seventh child of my parents AJ and V-P-D. He and I were only 18 months apart and we shared lots of wonderful times together growing up in Stamford and for many years to follow.
My early recollection of Jeff as a child is not unlike we all think of him today. He was bright, big, tough, tenacious and tons of fun. I remember vividly playing what we called mouch football in the field behind our home at 336 Ocean Drive West. Mouch was a rather insane game where the person unlucky enough to get the ball was gang tackled by everyone else on the field. In many cases there were 15 plus kids just waiting to pounce on the ball carrier. No wonder we all have bad backs and bad knees. We were absolute maniacs. Jeffrey was one of the more feared ball carriers in our nutty game. It was not unusual to see him drag three to four other kids for ten yards before they could pull him to the ground.
Jeffrey faced some difficult times growing up. He had an unfortunate stutter no doubt causing him some internal pain. But, he never let this affliction stand in his way. To the contrary…he worked extremely hard to overcome his stuttering. I remember my father and mother bringing him to any number of speech therapists who worked with him. But, it was not until he met a speech professor at John Carroll University, where he was an incoming freshman, that he found help. At the time, brother Donny was a student at John Carroll studying communications. He had a speech professor, Dr. Brunning who he introduced to Jeffrey. Together they completely eradicated his stuttering. I tell this story only to emphasis Jeff’s incredible tenacity. He never gave up; he was determined to overcome his problem. And, he did. Ironically, Jeffrey graduated from Emerson College as a Communication Major and throughout his business career he was known as a fabulous public speaker.
A few other stories from his early days:

Because Jeffrey was a big, strong and well-coordinated athlete; he was a great football player in high school. He played fullback. I can remember him CRASHING through the offensive line…ball under arm…and shredding the defense. He ran for 100+ yards every game. Even more remarkable, he had a bum knee and could not run laterally. So, everyone knew he was coming straight ahead; and they still had difficulty stopping him. He had amazing drive and a profound will to WIN.
I want to transition now to the mid-seventies when Jeff and I started working together. I had returned home to Connecticut from California where I was working in the hair care industry. Jeffrey was living in Mystic, Connecticut working as a roofer with our brother-in-law Tommy Geary. My first year out of college, I worked for the Woolworth Company and had gained experience in the retail trade. Jeffrey and I decided that we would start our own business and we purchased a Ben Franklin franchise. In those days, Ben Franklin was a five and dime store. We choose Gibsonton, Florida as our first location. Shortly after opening the store, it became clear to both of us that our clientele was much more interested in craft products than stationary, hardware and the traditional five and dime fare. As a result, we approached Ben Franklin and convinced them to introduce a new concept. Basically, we designed and repurposed the store to be a craft emporium. Sister Anne and Tommy Geary agreed to join us and help us build a very successful framing department. Our prototype became the standard for all new Ben Franklin stores nationwide. Now, Gibsonton was an unusual place. It was the Winter home of the carnival people. They were an unusual lot….let’s just say that they were a bit odd and somewhat eclectic. Unfortunately, they also had a propensity to shoplift. I remember, Jeffrey sitting in the office, spotting someone coming through the front door that we suspected could be a shoplifter. I know it is carnival people profiling…get over it. Jeffrey would bolt out of the office, round the isle and simply ask “may I help you?” If that person had any intention of stealing a Hershey bar or anything else that day, they definitely thought twice about it. Jeffrey had a presence. On several occasions, we would pursue shoplifters who had clearly lifted merchandise. In those days, I was a bit thinner than Jeffrey and a bit faster so I would catch them and Jeffrey…let’s just say…would have a chat with them. Trust me, they remembered that chat. He had a presence.
Even though we were experiencing success with our store; the best thing that happened in Gibsonton was Eileen Tully. At the time, Eileen was working as a clerk in Fabric King a retail store adjacent to Ben Franklin. Jeffrey and I would visit Eileen on a regular basis. We all became friends. One thing led to another. Jeffrey and Eileen fell in love and married in 1976. I will never forget the wedding. I was the best man…standing next to Jeffrey…looking down the aisle…as Eileen and her father, Jim, approached the altar. Eileen was clearly nervous and white as her gown. I looked at Jeffrey and said…”I think she is going down for the count”. Jeffrey smiled, as only he could, and said “not to worry…she’ll be fine”. It was a wonderful day…and Jeffrey married a wonderful woman.
Our business grew. We eventually owned three stores…our original store in Gibsonton and two additional stores in Orlando. Jeffrey and Eileen moved to Orlando where Kerry was born in 1981. They were both so proud and rightly so. She was a beautiful little girl with an infectious smile.

We eventually sold the stores and went our different ways. Interestingly, Jeffrey continued to work with family members both at our father’s radio station and with our brother Denny at another retail venture called Bed City. It was during this time in 1984 that Eileen and Jeffrey’s second daughter, Kelly, was born in Darien, Ct. Another beautiful daughter who brought them such great joy. How they love their “girl’s”.

Jeffrey had many valuable business skills one of which was his acumen with numbers and backroom process. He was all over the operations and understood the importance of efficiently managing the P&L. More importantly, Jeffrey had wonderful people skills. He could get the best out of people. While he was tough and demanding, and did not suffer fools well, he also had a personal touch that made people feel good about their work. He understood the power of recognition. I cannot tell you how many people I have met throughout the years who have such high praise for Jeffrey and his leadership skills. The fact that so many of Jeffrey’s business associates are here today, is a testament to both his business and personal talents.

As time marched on, Jeffrey worked for various enterprises mostly in the telecom space…including DialPage, Adelphia, Telcove, Atlantic Partners, Fairpoint and UCT…his last business venture where once again we worked together. How lucky was I. P A U S E

So…what was it that made Jeffrey such a wonderful human being? First and foremost, he loved life. He loved being around people. When he walked into a room, he owned it. There was something about his smile and laughter that endeared him to all. He loved to have FUN…and fun he had.
He was a great sailor and loved being on the water. Most years he would take Eileen, Kerry and Kelly along with other friends and family and sail the islands. He took such joy imparting his sailing passion on others. He was patient and kind to any first-time sailor. He relished in teaching the art of sailing and would go out of his way to ensure that all aboard where comfortable and were enjoying the experience. He wanted people to enjoy life and to him there was no better enjoyment on this earth than sailing. I remember speaking with our brother Phonsie who went on several sailing trips with Jeffrey, Eileen and the “girls”. All he could talk about was the wonderful time they had together as a family…laughing and enjoying life.

Another true passion of Jeffrey’s was music. He had a great voice and a great ear for music. He soooo much enjoyed when the family would get together and sing four-part harmony. Jeffrey joined various acapella groups and delighted in both the music and the comradery of the group. He helped start an acapella group called “Middle Of Nowhere” in Coudersport, Pa where he lived and worked for several years. By the way, Coudersport is in the middle of nowhere. He knew a lot about music and his tastes varied from classical to rock. P A U S E NOW, the entire family has experienced Jeffrey’s non-stop singing. From the minute he rose in the morning until he went to bed at night, he would sing…and sing…and sing!!!!!! Wow could this boy sing!!! P A U S E

What I will remember most about Jeffrey was his devotion to his family. Jeffrey and Eileen are a true love story. Jeffrey ADORED Eileen and Eileen Jeffrey. They were each other’s priority…and rightly so. These last two years were so difficult for Eileen and the kids as Jeffrey battled his illness. No one was stronger, no one was kinder, no one was more supportive, and no one was more understanding than Eileen. Talk about a true partner!!! Faced with difficult medical decisions…they made them together and many times with humor. Eileen was Jeffrey’s rock. So too, his girls…Kerry and Kelly. How Jeffrey loved them. He was one of the most supportive fathers that I have ever known….he clearly took after our own father. His “girls” benefited from the confidence that he always instilled in them. He took great pride in discussing their many accomplishments. He taught them the importance of honesty, kindness and having fun. They inherited his sense of humor and his love of laughter… What a wonderful FAMILY.
As I mentioned earlier, there is one quality that Jeffrey possessed that all of us found inspiring…his amazing tenacity. Our entire family was blessed two weeks before his passing to have him join us for a family outing on the Big Zip. He loved being back on the water. Even though he had to rest frequently during the party, he would rally after a short nap and join the fun. The following day we cruised Long Island sound where he reiterated to Jayne and me that “when I get better, I can’t wait to sail the BVI’s once again”. Up to the last minute, he had the most positive attitude and was convinced that he would beat this insidious disease. I never heard him complain. He was always positive and optimistic. If one treatment failed, he would move on and pursue the next course of action. That was Jeffrey... he NEVER, EVER gave up.
So now it is time to say goodbye to Jeffrey. He was so smart….so successful…so loved…and SOOO MUCH FUN!!! He was kind, generous, affable and tenacious. He was so strong both physically and mentally…yet he had a softness and a sentimentality that all of us will miss and always remember. He is now sailing with “AJ” and “Phonsie” in the ocean above while enjoying a hearty laugh and a vodka with Mother. God love him and protect him.

Kerry Donahue Shepski

October 31, 2013

Eulogy delivered on 9/27/2013 by Kerry Donahue Shepski
Good morning. On behalf of my whole family, thank you all for coming today to help celebrate Dad’s life.
While there are hundreds of words you could use to describe my father, the first word you simply have to start with is fun.
Early on life, I realized that my dad wasn’t quite like the other fathers I knew. When he volunteered to drive my 7-year old self and classmates on a field trip, he immediately took the opportunity to teach us to all throw our hands up in sync on the 4 count. The response was hysterical laughter from 2nd graders and as he speculated “wonder what the other cars think we’re doing in here?”
Rather than bemoan housework, Dad woke us up every Saturday morning with bursts of songs followed by loud music blaring from the living room, an essential for all Saturday morning chores, of course, because why would you do clean when you can clean and dance at the same time?
Dad seemed to always find a way to turn the mundane into the exciting. He loved life. Something as basic as a getting the car washed became fun. First, it was a “mission” and then, if you’re going to get the car washed, obviously you go to the one where you can watch your car go through the tunnel of cleanliness and make sound effects as it progresses through. The end result of a clean car is celebrated with exclamations or even songs about just how “oh so stratified is my car”
While out on missions, there were sometimes DTMs – “Don’t Tell Moms.” It was usually “sneaka” candy bar or ice cream, but what it was didn’t matter – I always felt like I was in on the best secret when it involved Dad.
While Dad was always busy with work, he somehow found time to attend all of extracurricular stuff. From school plays to soccer and basketball or volleyball games, he was right there on the sidelines cheering in his big booming voice, even for his daughter the cheerleader. That’s right – he attended football games just to cheer for the cheerleader.
The cool part was that Kelly and I also got to go and watch him. Whether it was the Heralds of Harmony barbershop chorus in Florida or Middle of Nowhere acapella group in Coudersport, Dad was out in front singing and smiling. The first time that we went to a barbershop show, he was so excited that he drove us all home and then immediately turned around and went back for the afterglow at the hotel, just to hear more singing and figure out how he could get involved. My personal favorite was watching him perform as the Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz in the town play up in Coudersport. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, just take a moment and imagine Big Jeff as the Cowardly Lion. No surprise – but he nailed it.
Whenever it was time for a big decision in life, we always went to him. His blessing made the difference and somehow gave me the strength to be brave and take a leap.
At a few pivotal “leap” moments in our lives –my first time away from home, moving to Coudersport, heading to college – Dad would write us letters. Going back through them over the past few days, I found one passage that I will carry with me and speaks to how much he loved his family.
“I could not have asked for more wonderful daughters than you and your sister. I am so proud of you and love you more than you could ever realize. When or if you have children, I think you’ll fully understand what I mean. To hear you laugh, to watch you play and see you think, to listen to your thoughts and to see you grow into a woman brings me the sweetest joy of my life. Even if we’re not together, you’ll be in my thoughts. Please take care of mom and yourself and remember to write. I love you Dad”
He was always larger than life and now, he and Al are off sailing with a vodka in their hands and song on their lips. Have fun Dad.

Debbie White Burg

October 19, 2013

I am so very sorry to hear about Jeffrey. We all had lots of fun growing up together at The Yacht Club and in Shippan, I especially remember his big smile and jolly laugh. My condolences to all the Donahues.

Leigh Stonington

October 10, 2013

Eileen and Tim...

Very sad to read of Jeffrey's passing at such an early age. My thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time.

Carol Barnard

October 9, 2013

Dear Donahue Family: I was saddened to learn of Jeff's early passing. I was a friend of Denny's in high school and remember Jeff at the family pool in the summers always making us laugh. You are all in my prayers as you go through this difficult time. Carol Schelhammer Barnard

October 7, 2013

Dear Eileen and Family,
I was deeply saddened to hear the news. Jeff always offered a cheery word and a smile, making it a point to connect with anyone who crossed his path, regardless of their lot in life. I have found memories of him during our time as colleagues in Coudersport Pa. He made a profound impact on the lives of so many folks. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
Joanne Wolf (Columbus Ohio)

JC Calhoun

September 29, 2013

Dear Eileen,

I am so sorry and deeply saddened. Jeff would always come into my office and look at the pictures of my little ones and tell me how beautiful and precious they were. You could always hear him singing or laughing in the office or hallway when in town. I will say a prayer.

September 28, 2013

My thoughts and prayers are with you all on this day. Jeff, Al, and Gayl are watching us all now,
Jan Lehman

Billy Frenz

September 28, 2013

Sincere condolences to the Donahue family...