Family Harvest Genealogy

Upated: 2007 April 10

Francis Joseph Donovan


World War II Veteran, U.S. Navy
U.S. Post Office, Training Supervisor

World War I was still raging in Europe when Frank was born on November 30th, 1917. It was Thanksgiving Day on High Street in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and the small Donovan family was truly grateful for what they had just received...a second son whom they named, Francis Joseph Donovan.

As the younger of two siblings, little 'Frankie' would often follow his older brother and his friends around town. Sometimes this would get him in trouble, such as the time he fell into the river and had to be rescued. Years later, he would recount the tale to describe the "beautiful music" that he'd heard while unconscious.

Frank was also very involved in sports. His high school yearbook indicates that he was involved in track (a fact unknown to me!) But football held his true interest. And, apparently, he had a talent for the game. Stories he told included playing semi-professional football and hitting his head on the wooden leg of an opponent only to find himself in the opponent's huddle after the play! But, Frank would only laugh at things like that. He was blessed with that unrepressible Irish sense of humor and had a twinkle in his eye!

Frank was also artistically talented and filled several scrapbooks with his doodling. However, the economy being as it was during the 1930's, he decided to pursue a career in plumbing. His course notebook is full of precise diagrams and carefully noted procedures...and, even today, could be useful to a plumber working on vintage 1930 and older piping! He found work as an apprentice plumber working for Fred Lyman of Charlestown, MA, before the war, but did not advance further than journeyman. His sense of 'duty' and 'justice' led him into a very important phase of his life.

With WWII on the horizon, Frank enlisted in the Navy. It was a logical choice as he lived 'a stone's throw' from the Charlestown Navy Yard and his father worked as a longshoreman on the Navy Yard docks. After training in Newport, Rhode Island and Newport News, Virginia, he was assigned to the SC-982, a 100-foot wooden boat used as a submarine chaser in the South Pacific. For more than three years, Frank stayed on the boat, even though the rest of the crew changed often. And, he said, he was seasick every day of those years!

In 1950, Frank married Ruth Haviland whom he had met through a mutual friend. The one thing that both of them wanted the most was to raise a family. However, after two years, they decided to adopt. In 1953, they received a long awaited call from the adoption agency that a three-month-old girl was available. Frank loved kids, being a big one himself, so fatherhood set well with him. And, as the beneficiary of it, I would say he was good at it!

When the war had ended, Frank decided not to return to his plumbing job. Instead, he took and passed the Civil Service Exam for the U. S. Post Office. Starting as a Carrier, he worked his way up through the ranks over the succeeding years. When he retired in 1981, he was a valued Supervisor for the Training Department.

Frank had a life-long interest in politics. He believed strongly in the government being of the people, by the people and for the people and did not hesitate to let his representatives in Congress know his viewpoint! However, his activism did not end there. He wrote articles for the West Side community newspaper in Woburn, Massachusetts, on topics impacting the lives of his neighbors. He also ran for school committee, but lost election. (Some said he was too honest to be a politician).

Frank also was active philanthropically. Since a youngster, he had been active in the Catholic Church's activities. As he got older, he began to put the principles he had learned into action. He became active in the Charlestown-based St. Joseph's Retreat League, becoming Secretary of the Apostles of Hunger which used its donations to help feed people around the world. His enthusiasm for this project never waned and the energy he spent on it benefitted many.

His death in 1986 from pancreatic cancer came as a shock to his family and friends. Just two weeks shy of his 70th birthday, Frank had lived a life of which anyone could be proud. His legacy is the example of putting one's beliefs into action and the love he bestowed on all who crossed his path. He is greatly missed.

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