Commercial-News, Penny Saver, & Sturgis Sentinel Obituaries


ANN DONNELLY of Fisher Lake passed away at the age of 90 on Sunday, May 5, 2024 in her home and with her family by her side. She was born in An Siléar Rosmuc, County Galway, Ireland, on June 28, 1933, the fifth of 14 children born to John Nee and Bridget Walsh.

Ann Nee grew up in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area of Connemara where she attended local schools. She worked in a hotel and then a knitting factory where, having mechanical inclinations, she repaired the machines and also mentored inexperienced staff members. At age 19, she immigrated to England with her sister Bridget and worked in a hospital. In 1954, she immigrated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, joining her brother Michael and others from her village who preceded her.

While in Pittsburgh, Ann worked for various families as a domestic. In 1957, she met John Joseph Donnelly, a mining engineer from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, at a dance at the local Hibernian Club. John and Ann were married at St. Paul’s Cathedral in the summer of 1958. Soon after their marriage, they moved to Denver, Colorado, where they lived for seven years and had five children. In 1967, John’s new job at Michigan Power brought the family to Three Rivers, Michigan. There, John and Ann added two more children to the brood. The Donnelly family has lived at Fisher Lake since 1970.

In the summer of 1969, Ann traveled on her own with her six children to spend the summer visiting her parents in Ireland. It was her first flight on an airplane. Her children learned a lot about her humble beginnings on that trip. They all stayed in Ann’s childhood home, a thatched, two-bedroom cottage with no running water and which only recently had been wired for electricity.

Ann was very proud of her Irish heritage. She was a true Seanchaí: a traditional Gaelic storyteller and historian. Her deep knowledge of family history and her stories of growing up in rural Ireland brought delight to all. During their marriage, Ann and John returned to Ireland over 20 times. As Irish (Gaelic) was Ann’s first language, on these visits she soon was back to speaking fluently and only in Irish.

Ann Donnelly loved her family and best showed her love as a giver of her crafts, a doer of things needing to be done, and a fixer of anything needing repair. She was an avid knitter, quilter, furniture refinisher, and all-around hard worker. She made quilts and knitted Aran sweaters and socks for every child, grandchild, and great-grandchild. If you were not a direct family member and received a knitted item, it meant she felt you were knit-worthy. Every time one of her children moved into a new home, Ann showed up with John in tow to run errands and cook, while she painted, refinished, and did whatever might be necessary to provide a beautiful home for her children.

Ann is survived by six children: Joseph of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Bridget (Stephen) Barrer of Ann Arbor, Michigan; Maura (Robert Christlieb) of Madison, Wisconsin; Rachael of Three Rivers, Michigan; Veronica of Three Rivers, Michigan; and Brendan (Emily Kania) of Ann Arbor, Michigan; and by ten grandchildren: Kaitlin, Eileen and Aidan Barrer; Maeve and Rory Christlieb; Nick and Alaina Moore; Colin Van Zalen; Robert Heath; and Darya Donnelly; and by six great grandchildren. Her brothers John and James, and her sisters Bridget, Barbara, and Theresa, also survive. Her husband John died in 2015 and her daughter Johannah died in 1998. Ann’s brothers Michael, Patrick, Martin, Colm, Joseph, and Anthony and sisters Mary and Eileen also died before her.

Ann’s Catholic faith was an integral part of her identity, relationships, and world view. She was a parishioner of the Immaculate Conception Church in Three Rivers since 1967, where she was a past member of the Daughters of Mary.

A funeral Mass will be said at Immaculate Conception Church on May 27, 2024 at 11:00 a.m. A rosary will begin at 10:00 a.m. and a luncheon in the church basement will follow the funeral. Later this summer, she will be buried in the Donnelly family plot at the Holy Family Catholic Cemetery in Ontonagon, Michigan, alongside her husband and daughter Johannah.

In lieu of flowers, consider donating to Catholic Relief Services or the Cystic Fibrosis Research Institute in honor of Ann. Special thanks to her niece, Mary Bridget Costello, and the wonderful Hospice staff of JoAnn, Steph, and Bob, who brightened her final days; and to Francis Granzotto, John Gieber, Marilyn Cheney, and Pixie Ziehm, the eucharistic ministers from Immaculate Conception who came every Friday to bring her communion.

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Slán Abhaile (safe home) Nan

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