Sad to report that Del Donahoo, one of the great gentlemen in local television, has passed away. I talked with Del from time to time over the years. And even when the talk was about an unpleasant topic like the end of the "Today in Cleveland" show that he hosted, Del himself was unfailingly pleasant. He was also admired by the late Fran Murphey, who would cross paths with the newsman as the two traveled the region in search of stories.
Services will be 1 p.m. Saturday in Bay Presbyterian Church, Bay Village. Calling hours are Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m,
Below are some notes on Donahoo's passing, with more to come later.
Del Donahoo, who spent more than 40 years presenting reports on WKYC (Channel 3), died Tuesday night in a hospice care facility in Westlake. He was 90.
The folksy Iowa native joined WKYC in 1968. He was known for upbeat features about people, places and food in the region, so much so that he was at least once called Ohio’s Charles Kuralt. In speeches, he would urge his audience to “take a day off and go see this beautiful state.”
Those features had their perils. In 1976, Donahoo was reporting on a lion act at a mall in Elyria when one of the lions went after him; Donahoo needed 48 stitches in his arm and head.
For 18 years, he co-hosted WKYC’s early-morning Today in Cleveland with Tom Haley. The lighthearted series, with the hosts chatting and joking in a kitchen-like set, ended in 1997 when the station expanded its early newscasts. Haley left the station at that time (and died in 2009) and Donahoo considered retirement. But he decided to remain with the station and continued until leaving a full-time role in February 2007.
He continued to do some pieces for WKYC, but a great deal of the joy had gone out of his work and life. Martha, his wife of 58 years and a frequent companion during his travels and speaking engagements, had died in October 2006 and Donahoo choked up when talking about her the following year,
“Martha went with me on as many trips as possible,” he said. “She was a wonderful companion. … The sad thing is when you go home with something to tell her, and she’s not there.”
Friends and colleagues were paying tribute to Donahoo online Wednesday, and a WKYC midday news report called him “a very special part” of the station. Former WKYC reporter Eric Mansfield said of Donahoo on Twitter: “You were one-of-a-kind and brought joy to so many.”