Gerald Donnellan

Obituary of Gerald Donnellan

Gerald T. Donnellan, a lifelong resident of Rockland County, passed away at home on March 23rd 2018. He was 71 years old. Jerry was born in Nyack, NY to Michael and Anna Donnellan on December 28, 1946. The youngest of 5 siblings, Jerry grew up with the fishermen on Piermont Avenue...just 2 doors down from the American Legion. He attended St. Anne's school in Nyack and went on to be the 1st graduating class of the brand new Albertus Magnus High School. Jerry attended Rockland Community College and studied theater and stage management. He continued his studies at Texas A&M until he was drafted into the Army in 1968. While Jerry jokes that he is "Rockland County's least successful draft dodger", he was quite successful in completing extensive and grueling training and became a Sergeant with the US Army Rangers. While in Vietnam, Jerry and his patrol were ambushed. After being wounded several times in the arm and leg, Jerry was at least happy to be alive. Soon after, however, the enemy threw a grenade into his foxhole. While the rest of his patrol was able to scramble Jerry was too badly injured to move. He threw his pack on top of the bomb. The explosion threw him completely out of the foxhole. Jerry's left arm and leg were badly torn apart while his right arm sustained a compound fracture and his right leg below the knee was completely missing. They had to wait for the night to pass before the helicopters could come in safely. Jerry always said that the sound of the rotors at dawn that morning was the sweetest thing he ever heard. After many surgeries and endless physical therapy at Valley Forge Hospital, Jerry was able to finally move home to be with his wife and young son, Sean. In 1970, a day after he returned home, Jerry began to work for Rockland Community College as their stage manager. In 1973, Jerry became stage manager at the Theater Go Round in Nanuet which ultimately led him to becoming a stage manager at the Westchester Premier Theater. This is where he met Frank Sinatra. And so began an 11 year career as Frank Sinatra's stage manager where Jerry traveled around the world and met many wonderful actors and entertainers. In 1986 Jerry decided to take a different career path. He had just recently learned that more soldiers had committed suicide than had died in the Vietnam War. He was hired by then County Executive John Grant as an entry level Veterans Counselor and began to work in the county's Veterans Agency Office. In 1992, Jerry was appointed Commissioner of Veterans Affairs and held that position until this past January, 2018 when he retired after 30 years of service to our Veterans and their families. During his tenure as Veterans Director, his many accomplishments include creating the local chapter 333 of the Vietnam Veterans of America , opening the 1st Rockland County Veterans Homeless Shelter, creating the Camp Shanks Museum, and opening the 1st VA clinic in the United States. Jerry was also the creator of the annual Memorial Day "Watch Fires". Each year on Memorial Day, 3 separate fires are lit around the county. These fires were fashioned after those lit by General George Washington's army during the Revolutionary War. Jerry served on numerous boards throughout Rockland including the Salvation Army, Rockland Community College Foundation, the United Way, Dominican college, to name just a few. He was also the recipient of countless awards and medals of honor for his many years of faithful service. Jerry Donnellan will best be remembered by his strong yet eloquent voice and speeches, his poignant and thought provoking writing, and his unending love, loyalty and devotion for his friends, family and fellow Veterans. Jerry is survived by his Best Friend and Beloved Wife MariEllyn Dykstra-Donnellan and 2 adoring sons Sean Donnellan (Candice) of Los Angelas and James Thurston (Angela) of Valley Cottage. He will be missed by his 3 beautiful Grandchildren Isla, Alec and Bella. Jerry's 150 lb dog, "Ducks", also survives him and is totally lost without him. Jerry is predeceased by his sister Ellie Yule, sister in law Madge Donnellan and Sean's Mother Deborah Partridge. He is survived by his brothers Donald Donnellan, Jim (Sue) Donnellan and sister Kathleen Donnellan. In addition, Jerry will be wildly missed by many nieces and nephews. Uncle Jerry was loads of fun, "a professional bad example" and their absolute favorite Uncle who was larger than life. Visitation will be held at the Joseph W. Sorce Funeral Home, inc. 728 West Nyack Rd. West Nyack, NY 10994 (845) 358 – 4433 www.sorcefuneralhome.com on Wednesday, March 28th from 2pm-8pm. Funeral services will be held on Thursday, March 29 at 11 am at the Fire Training Center on Firemans Memorial Drive in Pomona. A military graveside service will follow immediately afterwards at the Fred Loesher Cemetery at 220 Brick Church Rd. An Irish Wake will be held from 2 -7pm on Thursday at the American Legion Post on Station Road in Pomona where food, drink, friendship and memories will be shared among friends and family. Donations may be made in Jerry's name to the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 120, 20 Station Rd., Pomona, NY 10970