James F. O’Donnell, lawyer, community activist

January 31

James F. O’Donnell, who had a private law practice in Washington for more than 35 years, died Jan. 4 in hospice care at a Veterans Affairs medical center in San Francisco. He was 90.

He had chronic lymphocytic leukemia and metastatic prostate cancer, said his son, James O’Donnell Jr.

Mr. O’Donnell, who lived in Washington for more than 60 years before settling in San Francisco last year, practiced civil, criminal and administrative law in Washington from 1949 until the mid-1980s.

After retiring from his law practice, he sat on the District’s Iona Senior Services advisory council and developed the social service organization’s senior luncheon program, which featured speakers, musicians and art instructors.

He also volunteered for and later served on the staff of the U.S. Navy Memorial as a greeter and coordinator of visitor services for more than 15 years until his retirement in 2011.

For his community contributions, Mr. O’Donnell was selected to carry the Olympic torch en route to Atlanta before the 1996 Summer Games.

James Francis O’Donnell was born in Everett, Mass., and was a 1944 economics graduate of Boston College. He received a law degree from Georgetown University in 1948. During World War II, he served in the Navy in the Pacific.

He was actively involved with St. Thomas Apostle Catholic Church in Washington, where he coordinated a Sunday bus program for senior and handicapped parishioners and served as chairman of the church’s parish pastoral council. He was a former chairman of the D.C. Commission on Aging’s legislative committee.

In 2004, he received the Andrus Award for Community Service from the D.C. chapter of AARP.

Survivors include his wife of 62 years, Jeanne Conners O’Donnell of San Francisco; four children, Karen O’Donnell of Waltham, Mass., Susan O’Donnell of Washington, Jeanne O’Donnell II of Scottsdale, Ariz., and James O’Donnell Jr. of San Francisco; two sisters, Margaret O’Brien of Malden, Mass., and Ann O’Donnell of Washington; a brother, Brendan O’Donnell of Seattle; and one granddaughter.

— Megan McDonough

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