Father Donald Donahugh, joyful Air Force and hospital chaplain, dies at 88

North Texas Catholic
(Mar 18, 2024) Local

Father Donald Donahugh

Father Donald Donahugh (photo provided by Father Donahugh, courtesy, Diocese of Rockford, Illinois)

FORT WORTH — After moving to Fort Worth in 2011, Father Donald Donahugh became a familiar face to parishioners in North Texas. Known for his boundless energy and joyful personality, the former Air Force and hospital chaplain assumed the role of supporting priests and assisted with the celebration of Mass and the sacraments wherever needed.

“He worked everywhere — Holy Family, St. Bartholomew, St. Peter, St. Andrew, and for the sisters at the OLV [Our Lady of Victory] Center,” said Mary Mulkay, his surviving sister. "He helped a lot of people, but you would do that in 62 years as a priest.”

Fr. Donahugh, 88, passed away March 9. Many of the grateful people he served in both the Dioceses of Fort Worth and Dallas filled Holy Family Church on March 13 for a Mass of Christian Burial celebrated by the pastor Father Hoa Nguyen. Interment was in Bluebonnet Hills Memorial Park.

Born in Chicago, Ill., the late priest completed his theological studies at St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota and was ordained in the Diocese of Rockford, Ill., on May 26, 1962. His first seven years of ministry were spent in several parishes and Catholic high schools in the Rockford Diocese. He later earned a master’s degree from Catholic University of America.

In 1969, Fr. Donahugh joined the Air Force and for the next 17 years served as a chaplain at several stateside bases as well as overseas in Turkey, Taiwan, Guam, Vietnam, and Germany. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for Outstanding Duty Performance at Carswell Air Force Base in 1975 and also received a master certificate from the Air Force Institute of Technology in Berkeley, Calif.

When his ailing mother needed care, the priest resigned from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in 1987.

After leaving the military, Fr. Donahugh began his ministry as a hospital chaplain in San Antonio before moving to Port Arthur. The compassionate priest agreed to work at the city’s St. Mary’s Hospital one year and stayed for 19 more. His spirited homilies filled the hospital chapel to standing room only.

Fort Worth became his home when he joined his recently widowed sister, Mary, in 2011 and both became parishioners at Holy Family.

“We called on him frequently to help out here, but he also went to other parishes,” said Deacon Mike Mocek. “He was outgoing and a real breath of fresh air. When you were around him, you couldn’t help but smile. He was universally loved by the people of our parish.”

Blessed with a large extended family, Fr. Donahugh was fond of his many nieces and nephews and returned to Illinois often to celebrate weddings, baptisms, and other sacraments with them.

“They always looked forward to seeing him because his presence was so joyful and full of energy,” the deacon added.

Always a willing servant of God, Fr. Donahugh served Holy Family Parish as a Eucharistic minister when he was no longer able to preside at Mass.

“During his almost 89 years on Earth, Father Don truly walked in the footsteps of Jesus,” Deacon Mocek remarked in his homily at the funeral Mass. “Nothing exemplifies that fact more than his lifetime of priestly care for others.”

Father Donald Donahugh, Diocese of Rockford, Diocese of Fort Worth, Holy Family, trending-english