Walter Jay Donelan, known to family, friends and customers as • Jay- __ the third son of his Irish-American parents William and Eva Donelan. He was bon October 6, 1923 in his home at 560 North Garfield in Colby, Kansas.
Jay attended Colby public schools and graduated from Colby High School in 1941. At the age of 19, he joined the U.S. Air Force during World War I and served with the 8th Air Force in Europe. He was an Armor Gunner on a 8-17 and flew 35 missions before his honorable discharge in 1945.
After Jay's discharge, he attended watch repair school in Popular Bluff, Missouri. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Michael Donelan, first mayor and merchant of Colby, he owned and operated Donelan Jewelry in downtown Colby for 48 years.
On May 6, 1951 Jay married Marilyn Lyle Hunt from Alexander, Kansas. From this union two children were born including a daughter Kathleen Ann of Evergreen, Colorado and a son David Jay of Wichita, Kansas.
Jay's love and concern for Colby was apparent in his many and varied community activities and leadership roles. He served on the St. Thomas Hospital Advisory Board, Urban Renewal Committee, Colby Housing Board and Colby High School Alumni Association. He joined the Colby Lions Club in 1948. He was a member of the American Legion for 60 years and a charter member of the VFW. He was also a lifelong member of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus.
Jay was deeply committed to the operation of his jewelry store. It was his home away from home and the women who worked for him throughout the years were like family to him. They were genuinely interested in his welfare and supported him through every medical and family crisis. He commonly referred to his employees as "Jay's angels." Many store parties were held in the back room of the jewelry store on December 24. Everyone would drink a toast to the holiday season. Traditionally, Jay's staff had to drink their toast from their engraving mistakes, which consisted of baby cups, and a few revere bowls.
Jay retired from the jewelry store in 1995. Although it was difficult for him to leave the customers and friends he had served for 48 years, the transition was made much easier because of the fact that he knew his store was going to be in good hands. He was particularly pleased and proud to pass the ownership of Donelan Jewelry to two of his former employees, Bonnie Dinkel and Deanna Mallory.
With the jewelry store in good hands, Jay was free to enjoy the "dream of a lifetime," a trip to Ireland in 1996 with members of his family. He visited the homestead of his grandfather, Mike Donelan, as well as the small town pub in Kilkishan, owned and operated by his cousin, Patrick. Here, every Friday night, local residents gather to play Irish music, sing and dance.
"taste of the Guinness." Everyone participates in the entertainment so, when the Donelans were invited to sing a song the only selection that came to mind was "Old McDonald Had a Farm." This old American classic proved to be an Irish audience pleaser when rendered complete with animal sounds by the entire Donelan Clan. Later, as we walked the streets of Dublin with Jay wearing his Irish hat, he was often mistaken for a local and asked to sign petitions!
Jay possessed a keen interest in sports particularly basketball and wrestling. He attended many high school and college games. Throughout the years, Jay presented 14 watches to the national wrestling champion attending Colby Community College. During the formative years of the college, he was frequently asked to provide transportation for the athletes or the cheerleaders to out-of-town athletic events. He was an avid fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, Denver Broncos and KU basketball team.
As a 50th wedding anniversary gift from his wife, Jay had the opportunity to make another flight in a B-17. He flew in the Aluminium Overcast in Denver, Colorado. He considered this 30-minute flight his 36th mission. After his flight, he commented "no one tried to shoot me down this time."
On May 13th, 2006 Jay received an Honorary Associate of Arts Degree from Colby Community College for the several years of support he had given to the college.
Jay and Marilyn enjoyed dancing and on special occasions he would perform the Irish Jig for friends and family. He possessed a marvelous sense of humor and particularly enjoyed entertaining his children and grandchildren with his Donald Duck impersonations.
Jay was a very kind and gentle man who loved his family, his community, his country and his God. He never wanted more than he had. His life exemplified his belief in a strong value system. He stressed education for his children and if he possessed any regrets in his lifetime it would be that he was not able to spend time away from his business during those formative years when his children were home. He was a typical Irishman and proud of his heritage. He reached out to people with genuine interest, care and concern. There is no question that Jay Donelan walked this earth with God and will be sorely missed by all that knew and loved him.
He was proceeded in death by his parents, William and Eva; his infant sister Mary Josephine, his sister Gertrude Kinsley; his brothers William Albert Donelan, Jr. and John Edward Donelan. Survivors include his wife, Marilyn, his children Kathleen Ann Fedack and her husband John of Evergreen, Colorado; his son David Jay Donelan and his wife Cheryl of Wichita, Kansas; his grandchildren Kelsey, Kristi, and Kaley Donelan and Nick and Brett Fedack; his sister Joan Dark of Salina, Kansas and many nieces and nephews.