When he wasn’t leading his congregation at , Fr. Thomas Donohoe, West Hempstead native, was often reading books about the Civil War, collecting memorabilia related to the war, or visiting battlefields such as Antietam and Gettysburg.
“[Abraham] Lincoln is important because he got us through a war that divided the nation, and saved our country,” about the 16th president’s legacy on the 200th anniversary of his birthday in 2011. “We tend to forget now our founding fathers like Washington, as well as Lincoln. It’s important to take days to remember them.”
Last week, West Hempstead and Long Beach residents gathered at funeral services to remember Donohoe, who died in Amityville on April 18. He was 75.
Sister Fran Monuszko, a Dominican sister who worked with Donohoe at St. Mary’s, where he was a pastor for 27 years, remembered him for uniting the members of the multi-ethnic parish. “He was very caring and was a person who reached out to everyone,” Monuszko said. “He united all the people at St. Mary’s from different cultures.”
After he retired from St. Mary's in 2007, Donohoe went to Our Lady of Miraculous Medal in Point Lookout to assist with masses and various services. While there, he suffered a fall and injured his back in 2011, after which he went to live at a home for retired priests, St. Pius X in Amityville, where he died in his sleep Wednesday morning, Monuszko said.
Donohoe had returned to the Roman Catholic church in Long Beach to celebrate Easter Mass and to give a Mass last Saturday at St. Mary’s, which was preparing to celebrate his 50th anniversary in the priesthood, but he appeared to be in good health, according to Monuszko. “It wasn’t expected,” she said. “Everybody is in shock.”
Born in West Hempstead, Donohoe became an ordained priest on June 2, 1962 and first served as parish priest at St. John Nepomucene in Bohemia for four years. He left to serve as chaplain at the Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow for six years, and, later, as associate pastor at St. Elizabeth’s parish in Melville/Dix Hills for eight years. He arrived at St. Mary’s in 1980, where he was assigned as pastor.
During this time in Long Beach, Donohoe co-founded Long Beach’s Interfaith Committee; served as chaplain for the Long Beach and Lido-Point Lookout fire departments and the Long Beach Police Department and auxiliary police; and built a mission school, St. Vincent de Paul, in Haiti. After his retirement, St. Mary’s parish hall and the mall in front of the church were named in his honor.
“He was always open and available to people and very caring to people,” Monuszko said. “We was a great lover of people and a lover of God and he served his church to the best of his capacity.”