by Sandy Wallace, special to the ONA Bulletin
Funeral services were held Feb. 21 in Zanesville for longtime ONA member Jeffery M. Donahue, who died of a heart attack Feb. 18 at Grant Medical Center.
Donahue was on ONA’s weekly newspaper committee from 2006-2010, serving as chairman from 2008-10. He was also a member of the ONA convention committee for three years, serving as chairman in 2010.
ONA Executive Director Dennis Hetzel noted that under Donahue’s leadership, the convention committee brought in two nationally known guest speakers for the 2010 event: Vice President Joe Biden and Columbus Zoo & Aquarium Director Emeritus Jack Hanna.
“I certainly can say he made a difference for newspapers all over Ohio,” Hetzel said. “He was just a great guy … really passionate about and committed to our industry.”
At the time of his death, Donahue was special projects editor for ThisWeek Community News and also had been doing beat reporting recently covering the city of Bexley.
He was an award-winning writer and editor who worked two stints at ThisWeek – from 1995-99 and from 2003 until his death. While at ThisWeek, he spent several years as editor of the Grove City Record and was instrumental in establishing what is now ThisWeek Marysville News.
As special projects editor, Donahue also helped develop a multi-part print and online series about how Walmart affects local communities that won first place for in-depth reporting from the Ohio Newspaper Association just last week, Feb. 14.
During his career, he worked as a reporter and editor at several Ohio newspapers, including The Advocate in Newark, The Times-Recorder in Zanesville, The Daily Times in Marietta and The Journal-Leader in Caldwell. In addition, he did corporate communications for Intellirisk Management Corp. of Columbus and the Bethesda Health Care System in Zanesville.
Sources and co-workers praised him for his fairness and professionalism.
Former ThisWeek Executive Editor Ben Cason pointed out that Donahue was the only person he hired multiple times at the same newspaper group.
“Jeff understood the importance of accuracy and he always tried to be fair to everyone,” Cason said. “He respected all, but feared none.”
Grove City Administrator Chuck Boso said Donahue could always been seen with a smile, adding that interviews with him were like visits from an old friend.
“Jeff was what I’d call a square shooter,” Boso said. “He didn’t have any prejudged positions, and he always looked for the truth … Those who knew him will surely miss him, and those who didn’t know him surely missed out.”
Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler said Donahue “was a true friend to our city.”
“As a journalist, Jeff was impartial, hard-working, and accurate – careful to research all sides of a story and provide a balanced approach to news reporting,” Kessler said. “What stood out with Jeff was his precise reporting and his professionalism – he was a master of his craft, and it showed.”
ThisWeek Managing Editor Joe Meyer worked with Donahue since the 2012 merger of ThisWeek Community Newspapers and SNP. During that time, Donahue dealt with some major health issues, but always insisted his plan was to return to full-time duty as soon as possible.
“He struggled mightily to keep working through some terrible episodes and mounting challenges,” Meyer said. “I so admire the way he fought to keep doing the job he loved, just last week attending the ONA convention he helped to organize, on our behalf.”
Donahue was born Feb. 14, 1957 in Beverly, Ohio, the son of Cecil and Marilyn Angle Donahue. He was preceded in death by his parents and a sister, Sherri Cain.
In addition to his wife, Joyce Eppley Donahue, he is survived by a son, Keith E. (Angie) Donahue of Cambridge; daughter, Karen Slagle of Lowell, Ohio; sisters, Cecilia Armstrong of Waterford and Kim Donahue of Marietta; grandchildren, Jordan Harris, Amaya Slagle, Jace Slagle and Liam Donahue.