Thomas Neal Donegan, 61, former Chairman of the Provincetown Board of Directors
PROVINCETOWN – Thomas N. Donegan, former Chairman of the Select Board, is remembered this week as a man who worked “tirelessly” to help residents and who wanted to bring his experience and expertise to the city rather than take a quiet retreat.
Donegan served as a core board member from 2012 to 2018, three of those years as chairman, and member and chairman of the finance committee. He died on July 14 in Manhattan at the age of 61, with husband Mark Weinress and friends by his side.
The cause of death was leptomeningeal disease caused by cancer of the esophagus, according to an obituary submitted to the Provincetown banner.
Donegan moved to Provincetown in 2009 after working in advertising and marketing and retiring from a 13-year career at America Online, which was a start-up when he was hired. Donegan served as VP of Membership Marketing, managing a team that helped grow membership to over 37 million, and then helped lead the integration with AOL Time Warner.
For her volunteer time on Provincetown’s boards of directors, her main goals were to improve the use of the city’s resources, with a particular emphasis on finding solutions to the affordable housing crisis. Donegan has also served on the board of directors of the Provincetown Year-Round Rental Housing Trust.
Erik Yingling, his close friend and selected board member, recalled Tuesday that Donegan had devoted 30 to 40 hours a week to city affairs. “He treated it like a full-time job,” Yingling said in a telephone interview.
Donegan has worked on mental health issues, connecting people with the services they need, affordable housing, and helping the city care for people who need help, Yingling said.
“Housing was very important to him,” Yingling said. “He worked tirelessly to make it happen. He wasn’t afraid to go into battle when it mattered.”
Yingling considers the city’s purchase of Harbor Hill – the former condo complex that is now designed as an unusual city-owned, market-priced apartment complex – one of Donegan’s crowning glory.
“It was like making three holes at once,” said Yingling. “It was expensive. The land court was complicated. We had to go through a municipal assembly and a ballot, and we had to rally the community to the purchase. It was a big uphill battle.”
Jay Coburn was a select member of the Truro board of directors when Donegan held the same position in Provincetown. The two spoke regularly about the challenges facing the cities and the region.
“A lot of people would have come to smell the roses and enjoy early retirement,” Coburn said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “Not Tom. He cared deeply about this place. He wanted to bring his experience and expertise. Listening was an important skill so he could make a contribution to the city. He wasn’t just a washshore with people. solutions. He wanted a deep understanding of the community. ”
In December 2018, Donegan stepped down from her post on both boards to help her recently widowed mother-in-law in North Carolina. He remained an active member of the Board of Directors of the Center de travail des Beaux-Arts, serving for a time as treasurer, until his death, according to his obituary. It was an organization that was very important to him, and he enjoyed meeting FAWC members and discussing their work.
Donegan was born on January 21, 1960 in Los Angeles. His family, which includes his surviving brother Ned, lived largely in California, with the exception of time spent in Marshfield while Donegan was in elementary school.
His father, Jim, was a pilot for Trans World Airlines. Her mother, Gloria Gainey, originally from South Carolina, was a housewife and later a real estate agent. The Donegan family have used their TWA privileges to travel all over the world, and Donegan has had a long-standing passion for travel, flights, and even airports, according to his obituary.
Donegan majored in political science at George Washington University in Washington, DC, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1983. It was also there that he met Weinress, and they spent 38 years together. They tied the knot on July 27, 2015, a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, at St. Mary of the Harbor Church in Provincetown, according to Donegan’s obituary.
The Rector of St. Mary, Reverend Terry Pannell, recalled that Donegan was an exceptional human being. “All he did was make the world a better place,” Pannell said in a telephone interview. “Tom was not someone who wore religion on his sleeve, it was something he practiced.”
In August 1990, Donegan and Weinress were attacked and injured in an anti-gay hate crime, according to his obituary. It was the first successful case to be tried under what was then a new hate crimes law in the District of Columbia. As a result of this experience, Donegan became involved with the popular new group GLOV, Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence.
The group provided community safety education and advocated for police and media to be held to account in recognizing and addressing anti-LGBTQ violence, according to the obituary. Donegan quickly became the co-chair of GLOV and was known as the “activist in costume” because he rarely had time to change his day dress before being interviewed by the press, attending public meetings or make an occasional appearance on the news.
After serving at GLOV and moving to Virginia, Donegan became president of Crisis Link, a 24/7 crisis and suicide prevention hotline, according to his obituary.
After “following her dream” of retiring and moving to Provincetown, Donegan bought a catboat and enjoyed sailing all summer, even competing in races, according to the obituary. Six years ago, he and Weinress decided to make Manhattan their second home.
Donegan was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, according to the obituary. “Although the disease was advanced, he decided he would build on his already optimistic attitude even more and continue to enjoy his life gratefully.” Until the last few months, the treatments allowed him to continue to sail, cook, visit friends and travel.
Pannell said Donegan’s positive attitude has helped him fight cancer. “He saw the potential in tough times,” he said. “I think that’s why he lived so long. It was his positive spirit. It was calm water to be around him.”
On a trip to London, according to his obituary, Donegan spotted a plaque that “perfectly summed up” his gratitude, faith, and belief that a higher power existed for all. He bought two and placed one each in his homes in Provincetown and New York.
The saying became his motto, according to the obituary: “On demand or not, God is present.” “
Services for Donegan will take place Thursday at 11 a.m. at St. Mary of the Harbor, 517 Commercial St., followed by interment at Provincetown Cemetery.
“People come from all over the country for his requiem,” Pannell said. “We are going to celebrate his life. It was a gift for each of us individually and for this city.”
Charitable contributions in memory of Donegan can be made to the Carrie A. Seaman Animal Shelter, the Outer Cape Health Services, the Fine Arts Work Center, or the Cape Cod AIDS Support Group.