Brian J. Donnelly, a longtime United States Congressman from Boston and former United States Ambassador died Feb. 28, 2023, at his home in East Dennis, Massachusetts. It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Congressman Brian J. Donnelly after a long battle with cancer. He was 76 years old. Brian will be remembered as a loving father, grandfather, and tireless advocate for those in need.
Brian J. Donnelly was born on March 2, 1946, in Boston, Massachusetts. Brian grew up in Dorchester in a strong, hard-working, Irish-American family. He was the son of the late Lawrence P. Donnelly and Louise P. Donnelly. He received a Bachelor of Science from Boston University in 1970 and was a teacher and coach in Boston Public Schools after his graduation.
Donnelly served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1973 to 1978, where he quickly rose to prominence due to his dedication to public service and his commitment to his community. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1979, where he represented Massachusetts’ 11th congressional district for 14 years. In 1994 he was named United States Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago and served honorably in that role until 1997.
During his time in Congress, Donnelly was a passionate advocate for his district, fighting relentlessly for his constituents and for causes he believed in. He was known for his bipartisan approach to legislating and was well-respected by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Brian was especially proud of his work in creating the Donnelly Visa, which helped many in Ireland to emigrate to the United States and start a new life.
Brian was a devoted family man who always put his children first. He is survived by his wife Virginia, his two children, Lauren Donohoe and her husband Tom, and Brian, as well as his dear sister Louise Lydon. He adored his three grandchildren, Charlie, Billy, and James, and treasured every moment he spent with them. He was predeceased by his brothers Lawrence P. Donnelly, Jr. and Paul J. Donnelly. Brian retired on Cape Cod and spent many summers by the pool with his family soaking up the sun. Brian had a contagious personality that drew people to him. He had a unique sense of humor that could make light of the most serious situations. He would light up a room and had a way of making people feel valued and important.
Brian J. Donnelly will be remembered as a dedicated public servant who devoted his life to serving others, while always putting his family first. He was truly one of a kind, and his presence will be felt forever. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him, and his legacy will continue to live on through his children, grandchildren, and the many lives he touched throughout his remarkable career.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Salvation Army in his name. https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/ways-to-give/.
Per Brian’s wish, there are no funeral services. Correspondence can be sent to: The Donnelly Family, PO BOX 1025, East Dennis, MA 02641.