John Mark Donnelly, 66, of Charlottesville, Virginia, passed away on January 14, 2024. John was born on January 19, 1957 in Washington D.C. to the late William F. “Bill” Donnelly and Margery B. “Marge” Donnelly. John’s death was sudden and unexpected. He was in his home with his wife when his heart suddenly stopped due to hypertension and undiagnosed atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
He is survived by Deborah B. “Deb” Donnelly, his wife of 36 years and partner for 50; son John William “Will” Donnelly (Faris Wallenborn), and daughter Erin Nadezhda Donnelly; grandson Wilson Cruz Donnelly and soon-to-be granddaughter, Alena Faith Elizabeth Donnelly; sister Jane Elizabeth Leathem (Paul) and nieces Jenna Leathem and Samantha Leathem; stepmother Peggy Hall Donnelly; cousin Matthew Donnelly (Elizabeth); and many, many, members of his wife’s family (the Briggs clan).
John was the son of U.S. diplomats and spent his formative years in Warsaw, Poland during the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union, where he developed a love for the Polish people and a desire to understand their suffering. Returning to Annandale, VA for his teenage years, John took up motocross racing and earned a Varsity letter as a gymnast at W. T. Woodson High School. He received a B.A. in Astronomy from the University of VA. During his studies, his future wife would visit him at Leander McCormick Observatory while he took pictures of the stars. He also travelled to Egypt, climbing the Great Pyramid of Ghiza, sailing the Nile in a felucca, and experiencing other wonders in pursuit of knowledge.
After college, John became an entrepreneur and created several businesses, starting with Professional Highrise Services, which involved rappelling down the outside of buildings on ropes and documenting the need for maintenance with hand-held cameras. He raced motorcycles competitively for many years, winning a national championship in WERA Endurance Road Racing as a member of the Army of Darkness in 1999. More recently, he focused on his home and farm and took up writing, a life-long ambition. He nearly completed his book before he passed – an action romance novel interwoven with his own philosophy on human significance - and his family is working on sharing it with the world.
Services tentatively planned for early March. Receive a notification when services are updated.