Cover photo for Ellen B. (McDonough) Donahue's Obituary
Ellen B. (McDonough) Donahue Profile Photo
1950 Ellen Donahue 2023

Ellen B. (McDonough) Donahue

January 14, 1950 — December 2, 2023

Shrewsbury, MA

Shrewsbury - It takes a big heart to help shape little minds and Ellen Donahue was ideally suited to the task, positively impacting the lives of countless children in various New England school systems. She was a dedicated teacher, teaching English as a second language to many immigrants through numerous English Language Learner programs both in person, and most recently, through Zoom. What a gift she was to the person seeking new opportunity in a foreign and frightening land.  She selflessly helped them navigate the simplest of beginnings, teaching them how to read, write, speak, and understand the English language.

Ellen B. McDonough was born January 14, 1950, in Worcester, daughter of the late Edward R. and Mary (Murphy) McDonough. Raised in Spencer, she was a graduate of David Prouty High School with the class of 1967, and then earned her bachelor’s degree from UMASS – Amherst and later, her master’s degree in Early Childhood Development from Worcester State University. She married Shrewsbury native Dr. Michael J. Donahue on June 23, 1974, in the chapel of the former Calvary Monastery of the Passionist Community. She made Shrewsbury her home for the past 49 years as his wife and devoted mother to their three sons.

Ellen died Saturday, December 2, 2023, after a nine-month battle with cancer. She was 73.

Her educational career included school systems in Portland, Maine, Worcester, Milford, Natick, Sudbury, and Ashland.

She made her much loved family home on Walnut Street, where she took great pride in decorating, furnishing, and gardening, while Michael did the heavy maintenance. Ellen had a passion for gardening, loving to work in the yard where she tended to her seasonal gardens. She always kept active, walking regularly with a group of good friends in Dean Park and enjoying  Connie Bartelson’s ‘Senior Sweats’ group at Saint Mary’s Church. She was talented with needle, thread and yarn and knit numerous items for family and friends. Other treasured times of her life were forged at Moody Beach in Wells, Maine or Crescent Lake in Raymond, Maine. She relished the role of grandmother, aka ‘Mumu’ to her two grandchildren, frequently exchanging witty knock-knock jokes or riddles amidst the sounds of delighted laughter.  She equally loved reading a good book, which she always had in hand, or the competitive challenge of a cribbage game with any family member brave enough to face her for a round.

In addition to her husband of 49 years, she leaves her sons, James L. Donahue (Shaina) of Arlington, Virginia, Brendan T. Donahue of Washington, D.C., and Joseph D. Donahue (Maureen) of Doylestown, Pennsylvania; two grandchildren; her sisters, Ann McDonough of Medway and Patricia Bergan (John) of Shrewsbury and many nieces, nephews and cousins. She is predeceased by her brother, Peter McDonough and infant brother, Michael McDonough.

Family and friends will honor and remember Ellen's life by gathering for calling hours from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 6th in Saint Mary's Church, 640 Main Street, Shrewsbury. Her funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday in the church. A private family burial will follow in Saint John’s Cemetery, Worcester. All are invited to Eastern Shores Club, 206 South Quinsigamond Avenue, Shrewsbury for a reception following the Mass.  Out of respect and consideration to all in attendance, masking at the wake and funeral is encouraged.

The family would like to thank the UMASS Memorial Medical Center 8th Floor staff, especially Alex, Jen, Dan, and Chantel, for their compassionate and expert care of Ellen in her final days. 

Expressions of sympathy may be made to NEADS World Class Service Dogs, P.O. Box 1100, Princeton, MA 01541 or

Arrangements by James & John Heald of The Joyce Funeral Home, 245 Main Street, Waltham.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Ellen B. (McDonough) Donahue, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Calling Hours

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

4:00 - 7:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Funeral Mass

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Starts at 10:00 am (Eastern time)

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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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