Catherine Donoghue, 81
DENMARK — Catherine Donoghue, 81, passed away on Wednesday, June 7, 2017.
She died slowly over perhaps a decade from Alzheimer’s disease. She seemed not to know what was happening to her in the early years of the disease, but she knew something wasn’t right. In her early 70s, she was picked up by neighbors along Route 117 hitchhiking from her house in Denmark to her local noon AA meeting in Bridgton.
She was born Nov. 3, 1935 in New York City.
She was ferociously independent. She landscaped her front yard with no rules and her found object sculptures and rescued plants created an art screen between the road and her front door.
In the 1960s, she worked under her married name, Cathy Hartman, as a publicist for the small publishing house, Atheneum. There, she learned how to fit in to the NYC publishing scene from the owners: editorial greats Alfred Knopf, Mike Bessie and Hiram Hadyn. While there, she modestly groomed lifelong contacts like book reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt at the Times, numerous independent booksellers, along with a number of publicity assistants, whom she mentored. The working lunches she arranged with young authors like Puzo and Clavell — lunches at the nearby Nicola Paone’s — sometimes included her young daughter, Veronica. She left that house when she could not negotiate a living wage.
In her late 40s as the publishing world became the publishing industry, Cathy began to design an exit strategy from her job. Unlike most of her male colleagues, she had no employment perks and she had to figure it out. This, she did. Her efforts and sacrifices allowed some small financial gains and at 50 she was able to move to Maine with her daughter and son-in law, Alan Frey, and granddaughter, Corinna. In Maine without benefit of public transportation, she suddenly needed to learn how to drive. This, she did. She also looked for work, but had no college degree. Raised in the Bronx by the Scottish immigrants, Margaret Cummiskey and Frank Donoghue, she was the youngest of six siblings. Neither of her parents were skilled workers. When she was 12, her father was killed in a terrifying instance of work place negligence on South Street in Manhattan. Catherine lost her passion for Catholicism and became a seeker of other kinds of truths, different ways of understanding. She was educated in the Bronx parochial schools and while enrolled in high school at St. Nicholas of Tolentine, she met the woman she described as the most influential person in her life, her lay French teacher, Georgette. Georgette opened Catherine’s vision of the world and encouraged her; told her to keep questioning and pursue philosophy. She might have graduated in one of Brandeis University’s earliest classes if she and her future husband, George Hartman, hadn’t gotten kicked out in her second year. It was an instance of Catherine taking the moral high ground; she was a philosophy student after all! Throughout her 50s and 60s, Catherine, then Catherine O’Donoghue, traveled to Europe meeting fellow travelers in hostels and train stations. She bought a Council house in the Borders area of Scotland and hoped her family would eventually move there with her. She was distressed by the political scene in America and kept close to her heart the family connection to the socialism of the Scottish mineworkers. She felt deeply the passionate natures of singer Paul Robeson and poet Robert Burns. In the years of her travels, she made friends with whom she maintained epistolary relationships. It is clear from the letters that remain that she was esteemed by those who wrote her.
She came back to the United States because her family would not move and much as she wanted to be elsewhere she wanted more to be close to them. She bought an old Cape in Bridgton and found other strange folk around her. She discovered ecstatic dance and she joined a local journal-writing group. She “adopted” a family that she met in recovery and mentored in this way and through the local schools as best she could. She kept driving — an old Mercedes — so that she could visit Hebron, where her granddaughter attended school. She took the name “Journey.” What might have looked to outsiders to be a solitary existence looking in the door of her Bridgton house was actually a richly textured literary and artistic life. Resourcefully, as she lived on her social security income, she bought and had delivered a stand-up piano and reached back through the decades to recall the piano lessons she took as a teen at the Knights of Columbus Hall. She began to write music and composed art songs that she registered at the Library of Congress. She then began painting with little interest in how she was supposed to proceed she just began. When she lost interest in the paper and canvas she picked up at Renys, she began to paint the walls and floors in her house.
When Journey left her body on June 7, she was in her bed at Springbrook Nursing Home in Westbrook. She is survived by her daughter, Veronica Hartman; her granddaughter and three great-grandchildren.
There will be no public service. Arrangements have been entrusted to Chad E. Poitras Cremation and Funeral Service, Buxton. Online condolence messages can be submitted at www.mainefuneral.com