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John Charles Donnelly

John Charles Donnelly

Died: Saturday, September 25, 2004
Age: 88
John Charles Donnelly, a prominent labor attorney, died Saturday, Sept. 25, 2004, two days before his 89th birthday, at his home surrounded by his family.

Mr. Donnelly became the third generation of Donnelly lawyers to practice in Detroit after graduating from the University of Michigan Law School in 1937.

His grandfather, also John C., was indentured from Ireland through Canada and practiced law in Port Huron and later in Detroit for the firm of Brennan, Donnelly and Van De Mark. Mr. Donnelly’s father, William, also worked for the firm, then known as Donnelly and Atkinson.

Mr. Donnelly joined the firm out of law school, where he remained until he enlisted for the war in 1942. After the war, Mr. Donnelly joined a firm then known as Klein, Brucker and Waples.

The firm later became Clark, Klein, Winter, Parsons and Prewitt and then Clark, Klein and Beaumont, where Mr. Donnelly served as a managing partner. Today the firm is known as Clark Hill. Two of his children, Anne and Michael, practice together as fourth generation lawyers in Detroit.

Mr. Donnelly enlisted and served in the Army from 1942 to 1946 achieving the rank of captain. He served tours of duty in England, France, Belgium and Germany and was part of the radio team that sent out coded messages to deceive the enemy of where the Allies were going to land on D-Day. Later, he was part of the unit that liberated the Dachau concentration camp.

Prior to receiving his law degree, Mr. Donnelly graduated from the University of Detroit High School, and received a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in 1937, where he was president of his senior class. He was also a member of the Phi Delta Phi fraternity in law school.

On July 7, 1951, he married Isabelle DeMun Casgrain, with whom he raised eight children. Following a tradition dating back to his family’s Maryland roots, Mr. Donnelly prepared and presided over Sunday breakfast, a time when family members and friends would gather in the Donnelly kitchen to discuss the week’s events. This tradition became known affectionately as “Pancakes.”

Mr. Donnelly was a member of the Country Club of Detroit, the Detroit Club and the Yondotega Club. He was active in several charities including the American Red Cross, United Community Services and Adult Well Being Services. He was also active in the Grosse Pointe Little League where he was a coach for over 22 years.

“One of Dad’s proudest moments in life was volunteering to coach a team that none of his children played on and coaching it to its first victory in over two years,” said his son John.

“My father was an honorable man, being deeply religious and serving with distinction to his wife and family, his country, his friends and business associates,” said his daughter Isabelle.

Mr. Donnelly is survived by his children, Anne (David) Widlak, John (Nancy) Donnelly, Isabelle Donnelly, Josephine Dickerman, Laura (Philip) Filkin, Susan (William) Klotz, William Donnelly and Michael (Laura) Donnelly; his grandchildren, John Trost V, Karl Trost, Jack Donnelly, Maureen Donnelly, Billy Dickerman, Lizzy Warren, Charlie Warren, Billy Klotz, Michael Klotz, Teddy Donnelly and Evie Donnelly; his sister, Elizabeth Oakes; and his sister-in-law Josephine Casgrain. He was predeceased by his wife Isabelle in 2002.

A funeral Mass was celebrated on Wednesday, Sept. 29, at St. Paul Catholic Church in Grosse Pointe Farms. Arrangements were made by Chas. Verheyden Inc. in Grosse Pointe Park.

Memorial contributions may be made to the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, 8400 South Cambridge, Detroit, MI 48221-1699 or the Adult Well Being Services, 1423 Field Avenue, Detroit, MI 48214.
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