Saturday, July 13, 2024

Avenue of Heroes: John C Donahue

Prepared by: Marvin Heinze (friend)

Captain John C. Donahue enlisted in the Naval Reserve when he was 17. Graduating from the California Maritime Academy in 1963, he sailed as Third Assistant Marine Engineer on merchant ships. In August of that year, he married Pat, a nursing student who impressed him when he locked her in the car trunk to prevent being caught with a guest on campus after hours. In October 1963, the draft called, and John accepted orders to active duty as a Naval Reserve Ensign.

At sea, Captain Donahue served as Main Propulsion Assistant on the USS Zelima, a Vietnam era supply ship, then USS Hoel, where he qualified as a Surface Warfare Officer, and on the USS Farragut as chief engineer. While assigned to the Naval Research Laboratory, he participated in the classified search for the missing USS Scorpion. Overseas, Captain Donahue served as the COMSIXTHFLT Assistant Fleet Maintenance Officer in Naples, Italy.

Later, he served as the shipyard project manager for the $250 million restoration of the USS Belknap, which was massively damaged in a collision with USS John Kennedy. He also served at NAVSEA as the Acceptance Sea Trials Officer for FFG-7 class guided missile frigates and, in 1987, as Deputy Supervisor of Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, where he managed the $142 million restoration of the USS Stark after she was hit by two Iraqi Exocet missiles.

Captain Donahue’s final Navy assignment was as Commanding Officer and Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion, and Repair in New Orleans where he oversaw a staff of 350 personnel and $5 billion in contracts.

After retiring from the Navy in 1993, Captain Donahue worked as an MSC Port Engineer. He and Pat traveled by motorhome to shipyards around the country, returning to San Diego in 1998. Joining his parents as Coronado residents, Captain Donahue designed the construction of their current Pomona Avenue home. John spent 15 years as the Midway Museum’s Engineering Project Manager, and he and Pat have stayed active in the Navy League, ASNE, VFW, and Silver Strand Chapter of MOAA, leading the Letters to the Troops program.

Captain and Mrs. Donahue’s 60-year marriage was blessed by the Pope. They have two daughters, Kathleen and Michelle, and three grandchildren.


The Avenue of Heroes military service recognition program is sponsored by the City of Coronado. Introduced in 2014, the program has honored 261 hometown heroes to date. On May 18, 2024, another 16 were honored. City staff and volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2422, the Coronado Historical Association and Third and Fourth Streets Neighborhood Association oversee its operation.
In 2011, the program was inspired spontaneously with the movement of two Navy SEALs to their final resting place. News spread quickly and the local Rotary Club passed out American flags. People lined Fourth Street to honor the fallen service members. As the procession approached the Coronado Bridge, a lone Navy SEAL stood at attention, saluting as he waited for the passage of his comrades. That moment made clear that Third and Fourth streets were already an Avenue of Heroes.
That spontaneous beginning launched the program in May 2015 with 18 banners. The Avenue of Heroes is a reminder that Coronado has a rich history and legacy of service to the country.



Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

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