Joseph Donohue

Joseph W Donohue

1935 - 2023

Share Your Memory of

Obituary of Joseph W Donohue

Joseph Walter Donohue of South Hadley, Mass., died on December 11 of complications from major surgery. He was 88. A theatre historian, husband, father, brother, and grandfather, Joe was born September 12, 1935, in Brookline, Massachusetts, into a large family of Irish extraction, the oldest of five siblings who loved music, singing, leg-pulling, and loud talking. He received his BA from Johns Hopkins, an MA from Georgetown, and a PhD in English from Princeton University. As an army reservist, he was called up in 1961 during the Berlin crisis.

In 1971, Joe moved with his young family to Amherst, where he pursued a distinguished and deeply gratifying career as a teacher and scholar at the University of Massachusetts. A prolific author, his many books include a prize-winning reconstructive study of the first production of Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest, critical editions from Oxford University Press, and a new translation of Wilde’s Salomé with illustrations by local Northampton artist Barry Moser. He was a recipient of two Fulbright awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Huntington Library, and Princeton University, among others. For ten years he edited the journal 19th Century Theatre, which he founded. Joe was the first scholar to take a personal computer into the reading room of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Along with his first wife, Therese Brady Donohue, Joe gave their three daughters a love of travel, books, and the imagination, which he documented tirelessly in photos and home movies. With them, he continued to grieve the loss of his middle child, Maura Cathleen, who died in 1992 while awaiting a heart transplant.

In 2004, Joe met and soon married Judith Maurine Wightman, a clinical psychologist, to whom he remained devoted. The feeling was mutual. He was a lover of good food and an expert bread baker. He had a strong bass baritone and sang in many Valley Light Opera shows, most notably as Dick Deadeye in “HMS Pinafore” and Wilfred Shadbolt in “Yeoman of the Guard.” He enjoyed a rigorous game of Rummikub and usually won.

Joe is survived by his loving spouse, Judy; his two daughters, Sharon Marie and Sheila Patricia; Sharon’s husband, Dariusz Tolczyk, and their children, Adam Tomas and Aleksandra Marie; and his step-daughter, Caitlin McQuade and her husband, Joe Polman. He dearly missed his brother, Warren Daniel Donohue, and his sister, Patricia Ann Leavy, who both passed away last year, and leaves two surviving brothers, John Francis Donohue and James Edward Donohue.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.