Local and state leaders are mourning the loss of Joe O’Donnell, who died Sunday after a courageous battle against cancer. Mr. O’Donnell was 79.
Mr. O’Donnell grew up in the family home on Spring Street in Everett, attended Malden Catholic High School and Phillips Exeter Academy. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and his Master’s in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.
A very successful businessman and highly respected leader in the food service industry, Mr. O’Donnell was very generous to numerous local causes, including the Everett public schools and its athletic programs.
Mr. O’Donnell became a universally recognized champion in the fight against cystic fibrosis, raising millions of dollars for the charity. He founded the Joey Fund in memory of his son, who died of cystic fibrosis. Each year, Mr. O’Donnell, his wife, Kathy O’Donnell, and their family host a film premiere and gala that raises money for the Joey Fund.
Mr. O’Donnell was also a generous contributor to Harvard and proud of his academic and athletic connection to the world’s most prestigious educational institution. The baseball field at Harvard was named in his honor. The Harvard athletic program wrote about Mr. O’Donnell’s generosity on its website: “Harvard dedicated its baseball field in honor of Joseph J. O’Donnell ‘67, MBA ‘71 in a ceremony preceding a doubleheader with Dartmouth on May 4, 1997. O’Donnell, a football and baseball standout at Harvard and captain of the 1967 Crimson baseball squad, has been a supporter of the College for many years. In 1995, he endowed the baseball program with a $2.5 million gift, enabling Joe Walsh to become the first full-time head coach in the history of Harvard baseball.”
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria was among the city leaders lauding Mr. O’Donnell’s outstanding accomplishments and his contributions to his hometown.
“Like so many of us from Everett, Joe O’Donnell embraced the values of family, community, and charity. He worked hard to achieve his success and found numerous ways to share the wealth that he achieved by supporting so many worthy causes,” said Mayor DeMaria. “Joe and his wife, Kathy, showed tremendous strength in how they chose to handle the loss of their son, Joey, by becoming incredible fundraisers in support of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. My thoughts are with Kathy and the rest of Joe’s family as they deal with the loss of a man who I am sure considered his family his greatest gift.”
Sen. Sal DiDomenico also praised Mr. O’Donnell, stating, “Joe O’Donnell never forgot his roots in Everett and was always proud of his hometown. His generosity and support to the people of our community was endless. Joe’s legacy of helping our children and families will live on through the many organizations and charities that he founded and supported. So many people benefited from his kindness and no matter how successful he became he always made sure that Everett was close to his heart.”
Rep. Joseph McGonagle said, “Joe O’Donnell did so much for Everett and its residents, but he never sought recognition for his efforts. This is a very sad day for Everett. The city has lost a great person.”
U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey, a graduate of Malden Catholic High School, said of Mr. O’Donnell, a fellow alumnus of MC:
“Joe O’Donnell was a giant – in business, in philanthropy, and in his commitment to finding treatments for cystic fibrosis. Despite his lifetime of achievements and accolades, he never forgot where he came from as the son from a blue-collar family from Everett. He believed in paying it back, to Malden Catholic and the Xavierian brothers who gave him a world-class education, so that the next generation of students could get the same opportunities he did as a young man. Joe O’Donnell achieved such great success not despite his blue-collar roots, but because of them.”
John DiBiaso, former head coach of the Everett High School football team, said that Mr. O’Donnell was “a great man.”
“He helped so people. What he’s done for cystic fibrosis and the money he raised in the fight to find a cure is immense. There are so many young kids that are surviving now because of what he did. He did wonderful things for Everett and Malden Catholic, but in the big picture, he did so much more.”