Home Community Deaths Beloved St. Thomas Irishman, Larry Donahue, Dies

Beloved St. Thomas Irishman, Larry Donahue, Dies


June 10, 2005– Frenchtown lost its premier Irishman, its best chili cook, and a man who was known as "everybody's best friend" when Larry Donahue died unexpectedly on Tuesday. He was 62.
Donahue's sudden demise was felt equally hard on Water Island where Donahue was its favorite former ferry boat captain, grill cook and premier mail deliverer.
Memorials will be held at Betsy's Bar in Frenchtown on Monday and on Water Island Tuesday. Betsy's Bar will have a pot-luck supper celebration at 5:30 p.m.
The Water Island memorial will be at Heidi's Honeymoon Grill Tuesday evening. Heidi Erwig said complimentary ferry service will be provided by ferry captain Steve Rampino, leaving at 5:15 p.m. and at 6:00 p.m., with surrey service to the grill. The returning ferry will depart at 8:30 p.m.
Donahue brought what turned out to be his last mail delivery to Water Island Monday afternoon. He had been sick with the flu.
Donahue's friend, Erik Ackerson, recalled seeing Donahue doing his mail delivery Monday and asking Donahue what he was doing delivering the mail with the flu. Donahue replied that he would be OK.
Donahue was taken to the hospital by friends Tuesday morning and died later that night, leaving his friends in shock.
"Nobody knew he was so sick," said Betsy Sheahan, owner of Betsy's Bar .
Friends and family sat around the Betsy's Bar patio Thursday afternoon trying to bolster each other's spirits, while simultaneously planning a proper celebration for Donahue.
Donahue's family – daughter Angela Sheridan; granddaughter Kylie, 10 months; and son Brian – sat with the group.
"We had just visited him about three weeks ago," said Brian, "and he was fine then." The family arrived Tuesday from Pennsylvania, Donahue's original home state.
Though the mood was somber, smiles kept breaking through as one recollection after another surfaced. As more people wandered into the bar's courtyard, people would look up as though they were expecting Donahue to walk in.
"We sort of are," said one friend.
Donahue was an integral part of Frenchtown and of Betsy's Bar. "He wanted a title," said Sheahan, "he decided it would be the BM, and that's what he said he was. We don't know what it stands for, and now we never will."
Donahue ran the Water Island ferry for about 10 years, along with being a charter boat captain and mailman. Everybody knew him, in Frenchtown and on Water Island, and, according to his many assembled friends Thursday afternoon, "Everybody loved him."
Longtime Water Island resident Colette Monroe said, "He was so wonderful. When I had my Bayside Canvas shop, he would bring packages to me there. He'd call every resident when he had a box for you, even when he was operating from Yacht Haven. Brad, my husband, couldn't believe it. He always went out of his way."
Donahue delivered the mail, rain or shine, in his 15-foot Boston Whaler with the USPS logo on the side.
Monroe continued, "Then on Saturday nights and Sunday, there was Larry cooking at Heidi's. I think he cooked Saturday dinner and Sunday lunch every single weekend for seven years. He was so genuine. He always went out of his way to help."
Erwig said, "All I know is that Larry lived every day like it was a party. He enjoyed everything he did. I never knew him to say a bad word. He was always happy."
Donahue sailed into these waters in 1984 on his 44-foot sailboat, the "Barataria," having left his business, "Donahue's Tavern," in Winchester, Pa., for bluer waters, so to speak.
However, it wasn't his initial foray into the V.I. He had worked for the V.I. Water and Power Authority developing a power plant in the early '60's.
Brian Donahue said his father traveled all over the world – including Africa and Singapore – working on power plants before returning to Pennsylvania. He graduated from William Technical School in Pennsylvania with a degree in electrical engineering.
It's a far cry for an electrical engineer to become a sailing mailman or a grill cook, or even a 'BM,' but Donahue was a man of many parts, not the least of which was his prowess over the chili pot. He won the 2002 Texas Society Chili Cook-off showmanship prize with his "Betsy's Chili of Oz."
Last year he took his chili secrets to the St. Croix cook-off and won first prize, but had to forfeit the prize because he was not a Crucian. He just went to support the cook-off and have fun, his pals said, so it didn't really matter to him.
His friends asked that any donations be made to The Texas Society of St Thomas, which donates its proceeds to several local charities. Send donations to Texas Chili Society (c/o Larry Donahue Memorial), P.O. Box 306926, St. Thomas 00803. Or e-mail them to [email protected], attention Erik Ackerson.


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