Thursday, March 21, 2019

Remembering Doc Donahue

Robert Donahue, whose nickname, for reasons not entirely clear, was "Doc," died on Tuesday. His wife of 59 years predeceased him four months ago, and after her death, his own health declined.

Doc was often seen around town, making deliveries for Meals on Wheels, driving people to medical appointments, and, in the days before ShopRite's home delivery service, doing grocery shopping for others, but where many people saw Doc most often was in the outside seat on the left in the Council Chamber at City Hall.

Robert Donahue served for twenty-four years--twelve consecutive terms--on the Common Council as alderman for the Fifth Ward. At his last Council meeting in December 2017, when he was given a plaque to acknowledge his long years of service, he expressed his gratitude to Rick Scalera for persuading him to run for alderman back in 1993 and quipped that Scalera was not only a great mayor but also a great salesman. He explained that the Democrats had not endorsed him in 2017 because he had supported Republican Bill Hallenbeck in 2015 and asked rhetorically, "What's more importanta friend or a political party?" 

Talking about politics and city government, a native Hudsonian once told me that back in the day people could argue passionately and acrimoniously at Council meetings and then all go out and have a beer together. Doc's relationships with people often had that same paradoxical quality. During my four years on the Council, representing the First Ward, Doc and I, although both Democrats, were on different sides of the aisle, literally and figuratively. He crystallized our opposition once by declaring, directing the comment at me, "I don't know anything about this resolution, but if you're for it, I'm against it." A few years later, when I was no longer on the Council, Doc stopped his car, as he often did, to say hello when I was out walking my dog. After exchanging greetings, Doc asked, "Am I still your favorite alderman?" In one of my finest Dorothy Parker moments, I assured him, "Nothing has changed, Doc. Nothing has changed."

At Doc's last Common Council meeting, Scalera was there to, in his words, "escort the last good old boy off the Council." Bob Donahue was indeed the archetypal Hudson good old boy, who put friendship above political party and loyalty to friends above almost all other considerations.

The last time I saw Doc was a month or so ago. I was walking Joey in the cemetery in the early morning, and Doc drove right past us, without seeing or acknowledging us. I have since learned that he visited his wife's grave every morning. He must have been on his way there when I saw him.  

Rest in peace, Doc Donahue. We shall not see your like again.


  1. Carole, Your posting about 'Doc' shows class in describing the man that he was, and gives him the respect he deserves. As always a great job. Thank you.

  2. Rick Scalera shared this comment in an email:

    All those that knew and loved Doc would sum up the character of his life he lived in a few words: sincere, earnest and loyal and your posting does well to point out those attributes…….thank you.

    I, his many friends and the community will miss him. It seems far too many of us are meeting each other in the cemetery these days. Makes you put politics in the proper perspective doesn’t it?

  3. I won’t pretend I didn’t observe Doc saying many spiteful and even hateful things as an Alderman, helping to set a truly vicious tone for Hudson politics for many years. It’s really too bad he didn’t bring his other, more generous and placid personality to the Council chambers.

  4. Thank you Doc. Hudson and the World is a better place for your passing through it.