OBITUARY

Edward J. Donnelly

January 21, 1939August 2, 2022
Obituary of Edward J. Donnelly

IN THE CARE OF

Harmon Funeral Home

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Edward J. Donnelly of Sunnyside, a retired news editor at the Staten Island Advance who for decades served as the dean of the overnight shift, crafting headlines and overseeing page layout and story placement before sending the newspaper to press, died on Tuesday. He was 83 During a career at the Advance that spanned nearly four decades, Donnelly was beloved by colleagues for his calm and gentle demeanor, even as breaking news forced pages to be scrapped and redone under the tightest of deadline pressure. He served as a mentor to generations of journalists in the Advance newsroom.Ed embodied everything a news editor should be. Tough, but kind. A lightning-fast decision-maker. Excellent news judgement. Not a hint of bias,” said Brian Laline, the executive editor of the Advance/SILive.com. He was already a veteran when I was thrust into a copy editor position as the new kid on the team. Ed was laser-focused on building the newspaper every single day while Staten Island was still sleeping, juggling hundreds of stories and photos as deadline loomed,” Laline said. “But he was still able to take the time to teach the new kids on his team what was really important about local journalism. He never got rattled, no matter how big the story. And that included the horrible morning of September 11 when the Advance was the only newspaper in the city still able to get the story on Page 1 for our readers.” Journalism would be in a lot better place today if there were more Ed Donnellys out there guiding the decisions,” Laline said. Ed Donnelly As a younger journalist, Ed Donnelly was known for his fiery red hair. During his 38 years at the Advance, he served as a mentor to generations. Born in Manhattan on Jan. 21, 1939, Donnelly was brought to the Bronx as an infant. He graduated from St. Helena High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Fordham University, both in the Bronx. He was first introduced to the woman who would become the love of his life, the former Eileen Moore, through relatives when they were 17. She had just emigrated from her native County Laois in Ireland. Their first date was a movie, followed by a scenic walk across the George Washington Bridge. They were married on May 4, 1963, in Good Shepherd R.C. Church in the Inwood section of Manhattan with a reception in The Chester House, the Bronx, and a honeymoon in the Poconos. They moved from the Bronx to Ossining, N.Y., and settled in their home in Sunnyside in July 1968. The couple marked their 50th wedding anniversary in 2013. JOURNALISM CAREER After a brief stint as city editor at the former Ossining Citizen Register, Donnelly joined the Advance as news editor in October 1965, a position he held for 38 years until his retirement in 2003. His first job was to oversee the production of the Sunday Advance. Before long he transitioned to producing the daily newspaper on the overnights. He oversaw the production of thousands of editions of the Advance in a career that witnessed historic events like the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Robert Kennedy assassination, the closure of the Fresh Kills landfill and the September 11 terrorist attacks. As a young journalist, Donnelly was known for his red hair, which began turning white in his mid-30s. At six foot four inches, he cast an imposing figure, but was a gentle giant in the newsroom. Publisher Caroline Harrison and Ed Donnelly in 2011. (Staten Island Advance /Jan Somma-Hammel) Jan Somma-Hammel “Ed was a great newsman from the old school. He was at his desk long before dawn to make sure overnight news and last-minute edits were made to that day’s paper,” said Advance/SILive.com Publisher Caroline Harrison. “That was long before the internet. The paper was the only record of the day, and with Ed there, we were confident it would be accurate. Ed, along with his wife Eileen, daughter Maureen and sons Jed and Joe, were all important members of the Advance family for years. I am deeply saddened by Ed’s passing. They don’t make them like Ed anymore AN OVERNIGHT FIXTURE Donnelly made the most of his unconventional shift, taking a walk most mornings to watch the sun rise. On occasion, he would deliver a wake-up call to new members of the team who slept in while adjusting to the new hours. He was always understanding. Donnelly was typically the first editor to grab the paper off the press to distribute in the newsroom for the early-morning review. He built lifelong friendships with several colleagues over the years. “He was always fun to work with,” said Phil Brittain, an editor who retired in 1996 and spent years in close partnership with Donnelly. “He worked on all the big sections, and I worked with him, and sometimes we worked all night long and into the morning, then headed to the diner.” The two remained friends after retirement. We traveled together all our lives, we had lunches together, dinners together, celebrated anniversaries together,” Brittain said. Another colleague, retired news editor Lou Bergonzi, said: “Ed Donnelly was the consummate journalist: Professional, intelligent, scrupulously fair and remarkable under pressure. Just knowing he was in the newsroom gave everyone a sense of calm and confidence.” Bergonzi said he never met anyone who didn’t “like, respect and admire” Donnelly. People like Ed come along once in a lifetime, and I am grateful and proud to have worked with him and even prouder to call him a friend,” he said. “We are all poorer for his loss.” TECHNOLOGY CHANGES His time in the newsroom also spanned dramatic changes to technology, and about halfway through his career, he witnessed the usage of computers to design the newspaper pages he used to map out by hand. Still, he would wow younger colleagues as he maneuvered a pair of rulers to measure exactly how many inches needed to be left for a photo depending on how many columns the image ran. “Ed Donnelly taught me the power of words,” said senior editor Melissa Alcock, who worked with Donnelly for several years. “He was an old-school copy editor who knew just how to take a reporter’s story and make it shine by moving some of the sentences and adding just the right headline. He made the newspaper better every day — and he was the fastest two-finger typist I’ve ever seen. FAITH Donnelly and his wife were longtime parishioners of St. Teresa’s R.C. Church in Castleton Corners and members of the New York City secular community of the Carmelite Order. About 10 years ago, Monsignor William Belford, pastor of the St. Teresa’s, asked Donnelly to join the parish council. Donnelly had been serving as a lector at the time. “He had a really nice way of giving advice and clarifying an issue and being gentle to everybody involved,” Monsignor Belford said. After his retirement from the Advance, Donnelly wrote a blog on faith for SILive.com on a volunteer basis. In one post from 2013, he reminisced about the day he was baptized. “On the long-ago day I was baptized, the priest performing the ceremony at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Upper Manhattan told my mother I would become a bishop,” he wrote. “Well, that didn’t happen, but my mother never seemed disappointed over my choice of career. She just smiled whenever she told me the story, and I guess the one thing I can hold onto from it is that it was my mother who first took me into a church and I am still thankful for that.” He served in the National Guard for eight years, reaching the rank of sergeant. Ed Donnelly An avid fan of the New York Jets, Ed Donnelly poses in this photo with his son, Joseph. (Family photo) His hobbies included reading; he was also a passionate fan of the New York Jets and New York Mets. The Donnellys shared a passion for outdoor exercise, enjoying regular walks through Staten Island parks and Manhattan’s Central Park. Avid travelers, they visited Jerusalem, Ireland, England, France, Canada, Florida, Texas and Arizona, plus Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. He was also passionate about volunteering in his community. In addition to his role at St. Teresa’s, Donnelly donated his time to Meals on Wheels and Mount Manresa. In addition to his wife, Eileen, he is survived by two sons, James Edward and Joseph Moore; a daughter, Maureen Teresa; and four grandchildren, Abigail, Christian, Luke and Jessica Donnelly. “I and all my siblings have always agreed he was the best grandpa ever,” said his oldest grandchild, Abigail, 19, of Holmdel, N.J. “We will love him and miss him forever.” Arrangements are being handled by Harmon Home for Funerals in West Brighton. Visitation will be Sunday, from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. The funeral will be Monday at 9:30 a.m. at St. Teresa’s. Burial will be in St. Peter’s Cemetery in West Brighton.

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Monday, August 08, 2022

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St. Teresa Church

Monday, August 08, 2022

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St Peter's Cemetery

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