Skip to Content

Remembering Hank Donovan: A Vibrant Bowdoin Alumnus Embracing Life, Passes Away at 66

Gratton Henry “Hank” Donovan II, from Bowdoin, recently commemorated his 60th birthday alongside his younger sister, Kelley Donovan. The image capturing this special moment is provided by Kelley Donovan.

Hank Donovan, a resident of Bowdoin, exhibited a lifelong fascination with individuals. Growing up in Topsham, he attended classes with peers who shared Down syndrome. During these interactions, he made it a habit to inquire about everyone’s birthday, meticulously recording the information on paper before storing it in a manila envelope. As time passed, his interest expanded to genealogy, where he delighted in uncovering new facets of his family’s history.

Kelley Donovan, his sister, reminisces, “He was always keen on understanding people’s backgrounds and connections. Exploring old family photographs and identifying relatives held significant importance for him.”

Known for his amiable demeanor and devotion to his family, Hank Donovan passed away on April 5 at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston at the age of 66.

As the eldest of Norman and Anne Donovan’s five children, Hank shared a special bond with his only sister, Kelley. Despite a nine-year age gap, their closeness was evident, with Hank assuming a protective role towards her. Kelley recalls, “In family conversations, it was always ‘Hank, Kelley, and the boys,’ referring to our brothers Jeffrey, Patrick, and Matthew.”

In 1966, Anne Donovan co-established the Youth Development Center, later known as [ppp1]. This initiative aimed to support families with children facing intellectual and developmental challenges, shielding them from the exclusion and ridicule often experienced in public schools by children with Down syndrome.

At the Youth Development Center, Hank Donovan and his peers acquired essential life skills such as reading, writing, and using the telephone. Kelley mentions, “Hank would return home and immediately start dialing numbers. His enthusiasm was infectious.”

Despite his mischievous streak, like attempting to drive his grandparents’ car, Hank’s vivacity and sense of humor were endearing. Kelley affectionately describes him as “lively, fun, and a bit mischievous.”

Engaging in Special Olympics, Hank Donovan garnered numerous accolades and actively participated in theatrical productions, including “The Emperor’s New Clothes” at Independence Association.

Following his tenure at YDC, Hank joined Spindleworks Arts Center, engaging in arts and crafts until his retirement in 2002. His retirement celebration featured a badge proudly declaring him “Off the Clock.”

For many years, Hank resided at Apple Ridge Assisted Living in Bowdoin, where he received exceptional care. Despite his battle with Alzheimer’s, his caregivers ensured his comfort and encouraged his passion for genealogical research.

Throughout his life, Hank and Kelley maintained a profound connection. Their unspoken understanding and emotional acuity defined their relationship. Kelley reminisces about the heartfelt letters Hank wrote to her during her college years, each meticulously penned in all-caps without spaces. One poignant letter listed characters from “The Wizard of Oz,” a cherished memory they shared.

Their shared love for the movie symbolized a bond that transcended words, encapsulating the beauty of their relationship.