Gerald Wesley Donovan
October 31, 1948 – July 31, 2021
Gerald Wesley Donovan of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland peacefully passed away at his home on Saturday, July 31st. Gerald was surrounded by his loving wife, Mary, daughter Mary Lanham, and sons Wesley and Ryan along with their families, his siblings, and many of his grandchildren.
Gerald was born on October 31, 1948 to the late Daphne and Fred Donovan. Gerald attended Calvert High School, Baltimore College of Commerce, Prince George’s Community College, and University of Maryland.
Gerald is survived by his wife Mary E. Donovan of Chesapeake Beach, sons Wesley and wife Julie of Dunkirk, Ryan and husband Erik of New York City, Roger O’Dell of Drum Point, daughters Mary Lanham and husband Mike of Dunkirk, and Veronica Fleming and husband Ricky of Flinton, Pennsylvania. He is survived by sisters Joan Kilmon of Huntingtown, Gail Harkins of Chesapeake Beach, Diane Harrison and husband Griffith of Huntingtown, brother Freddie Donovan and wife Carol of Chesapeake Beach. Thirteen grandchildren and five great grandchildren survive Gerald. He was preceded in death by his granddaughter Addison Donovan and son Ricky O’Dell.
Gerald was a humble man who loved to serve. As a young man, he was on active duty in the US Marine Corps from 1968 to 1971. He was a former president and a lifetime member of the North Beach Volunteer Fire Department. Gerald graduated from Leadership Maryland, was an executive committee member of the Maryland Tourism Board, and a board member of the Maryland Restaurant Association. He served a term as chairman of the Calvert County Democratic Central Committee and initiated the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum.
One of his proudest accomplishments was starting the Cancer Gala/Celebration of Life along with his brother Freddie in memory of their father, Fred. Together, they raised more than $4 million dollars in thirty years of events for the American Cancer Society. In 2011, Mary and Gerald received The American Cancer Society’s Award of Excellence for Income Development in honor of their efforts during the thirty years of the event.
Gerald served on the Chesapeake Beach town council from 1976 to 1983. After being appointed mayor in 1983, he went on to be elected for six straight terms as mayor from 1984 until 2008, when he retired after thirty-two years of service. As mayor, many of his accomplishments are enjoyed by thousands of residents and guests every year: the Water Park, the Railway Trail, Bayfront Park, the town’s annual fireworks display, and Veterans Memorial Park. Gerald loved the Christmas season and was able to garner support from the town council to light the entire town with festive lights and displays. After he retired from his mayorship, he loved to drive around town looking at the new sidewalks, the decorative light poles with the hanging baskets full of flowers, all the while listening to Motown. As mayor, he would often tell people it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t worry who gets the credit for it.
He loved Chesapeake Beach more than anywhere else, knew its history better than anyone, and made it his mission as mayor to put Chesapeake Beach back on the map, just as Otto Mears did in 1900. He was a teacher of all things business and Chesapeake Beach to those around him, like his grandfather Wesley Stinnett had been to him.
Gerald gave so much to our community, where he set forth his vision for The Rod ‘N’ Reel Resort. Always a visionary, he was so proud of his life’s work. He felt immense gratitude to those who helped him fulfill his dreams. He loved coming to work every day and as he often said, “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.” He truly loved what he did.
A funeral procession escorted by Calvert County Sheriff’s Department and the North Beach Volunteer Fire Department will depart St. Anthony’s Church in North Beach at 1:30pm on Saturday, August 7th. They will travel along Rt. 261, passing many of Gerald’s favorite locations in Chesapeake Beach, circle through the Rod ‘N’ Reel parking lot before heading west on Rt. 260. If you wish to pay tribute to Gerald as the procession makes its way through Chesapeake Beach, we invite you to stand along Rt. 261 somewhere between the St. Anthony’s Church and the Rod ‘N’ Reel. Chesapeake Beach Town Hall, restaurants Trader’s and 1936 will have flags to pass out for when the procession passes by.
There will be a private family service by invitation and a Celebration of Life to be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to One Breath at a Time, Inc.’s Butterfly House, which provides room and board for families during the lung transplant process. www.onebreathatatime.net.