Catherine Donoghue

1 entry
  • "Dear beloved COD, God loves you and welcomes you. Do now..."
    - Alan Frey
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Catherine Donoghue, 81
DENMARK - Catherine Donoghue, born Nov. 3, 1935, in New York City, died on the seventh of June 2017. She was 81 at the time of her death.
She died slowly, over perhaps a decade, from Alzheimer's. She seemed not to know what was happening to her in the early years of the disease, but she knew something wasn't right. In her early 70s, she was picked up by neighbors along Route 117, hitchhiking from her house in Denmark, to her local nooner AA meeting in Bridgton. In later years and with hindsight, this seems likely an early sign of the disease but at the time -- although worrisome -- it seemed to be just the way she chose to live.
She was ferociously independent. She landscaped her front yard with no rules, and her found object sculptures and rescued plants created an art screen between the road and her front door.
In the 1960s she worked under her married name, Cathy Hartman, as a publicist for the small publishing house, Atheneum. There she learned how to fit into the NYC publishing scene from the owners: editorial greats Alfred Knopf, Mike Bessie and Hiram Hadyn. While there, she modestly groomed life-long contacts, like book reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt at the Times, and numerous independent booksellers, along with a number of publicity assistants she mentored. The working lunches she arranged with young authors like Puzo and Clavell, and lunches at the nearby Nicola Paone's, sometimes included her young daughter, Veronica. She left that house when she could not negotiate a living wage. She wanted to divorce and couldn't live on a married woman's wages.
In her late 40s, as the publishing world became the publishing industry, Cathy began to design an exit strategy from her job. Unlike most of her male colleagues, she had no employment perks and she had to figure it out. This she did.
Her efforts and sacrifices allowed some small financial gains, and at 50 she was able to move to Maine with her daughter and son-in law, Alan Frey, and granddaughter, Corinna. In Maine, without benefit of public transportation, she sud-denly needed to learn how to drive. This she did. She also looked for work but had no college degree.
Raised in the Bronx by Scottish immigrants Margaret Cummiskey and Frank Donoghue, she was the youngest of six siblings. Neither of her parents were skilled workers. When she was 12, her father was killed in a terrifying instance of workplace negligence, on South Street in Manhattan.
Catherine lost her passion for Catholicism and became a seeker of other kinds of truths, different ways of understanding. She was educated in the Bronx parochial schools and while enrolled in high school at St Nicholas of Tolentine, she met the woman she described as the most influential person in her life, her lay French teacher, Georgette.
Georgette opened Catherine's vision of the world and encouraged her; told her to keep questioning and pursue philosophy. She might have graduated in one of Brandeis University's earliest classes if she and her future husband, George Hartman, hadn't gotten kicked out in her second year. It was an instance of Catherine taking the moral high ground; she was a philosophy student after all!
Throughout her 50s and 60s, Catherine, then Catherine O'Donoghue, travelled Europe meeting fellow travelers in hostels and train stations. She bought a Council house in the Borders area of Scotland and hoped her family would eventually move there with her. She was distressed by the political scene in America and kept close to her heart the family connection to the socialism of the Scottish mineworkers. She felt deeply the passionate natures of singer Paul Robeson and poet Robert Burns. In the years of her travels she made friends with whom she maintained epistolary relationships. It is clear from the letters that remain that she was esteemed by those who wrote her.
She came back to the U.S. because her family would not move, and much as she wanted to be elsewhere, she wanted more to be close to them. She bought an old Cape in Bridgton and found other creative folk around her.
She discovered ecstatic dance and she joined a local journal-writing group. She "adopted" a family she met in recovery, and mentored in this way and through the local schools as best she could. She kept driving (an old Mercedes) so she could visit Hebron, where her granddaughter attended school. She took the name "Journey."
What might have looked to outsiders to be a solitary existence, looking in the door of her Bridgton house, was actually a richly textured literary and artistic life.
Resourcefully, as she lived on her social security income, she bought and had delivered a stand-up piano and reached back through the decades to recall the piano lessons she took as a teen at the Knights of Columbus Hall. She began to write music and composed art songs that she registered at the Library of Congress. She then began paint-ing; with little interest in how she was supposed to proceed, she just began. When she lost interest in the paper and canvas she picked up at Reny's, she began to paint the walls and floors in her house.
When Journey left her body on the seventh of June, she was in her bed at Springbrook Nursing Home in Westbrook. Many of the people who gave care to her during the five years she lived there were with her when her soul departed. Her daughter, Veronica Hartman; her granddaughter, Corinna Burnham; and Corinna's husband Andy and children, Lucy, Emily, and Elena, live many miles away and relied on the love and care of the people at Springbrook. Their care, and the visits by Journey's former son-in-law Alan, and Journey's friend Melissa, helped take some of the sting from the ravaging disease of Alzheimer's -- the disease that took her mind, if not her spirit.
In the five years that Journey lived in the Mayflower Wing of Springbrook, her caregivers always mentioned her dancing. She was unusual among the residents in the dementia wing; she danced with swagger and verve. She reached out to touch her neighbors' cheeks and hair, and stood near them to assure they had food and that someone answered the oft times desperate lunatic cries. She was admired by staff for her strong arm and light step on the dance floor. She was shown to be both loving and fierce in her insistence that the others with whom she lived be taken care of. Sometimes she called out her sister's name and at other times her daughter's name.
It is we who will call out for you now, as it will not be easy to let you go. May your journey be gentle and easy, dear Catherine.
There will be no public service. Arrangements have been entrusted to
Chad E. Poitras Cremation and Funeral Service,
Buxton. Share condolence messages online:

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Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on June 18, 2017
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