Retired Spokane County auditor Bill Donahue, who died Monday night, was recalled by colleagues as a gentleman.
“That sounds kind of old-fashioned today,” said Spokane County Clerk Tom Fallquist, a longtime friend.
But he and Treasurer Skip Chilberg applied the description without reservation.
“I never heard a bitter word from Bill,” said Chilberg, a former county commissioner who worked with Donahue for a dozen years. “I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. He was always a gentleman and a great public servant.”
“If you had a personal problem, he would always listen,” said Auditor Vicky Dalton, who worked for Donahue for 10 years before succeeding him in office in January 1999. “He faced every one of his issues with such grace.”
Donahue, 69, spent most of his life in a wheelchair and died of a virulent infection in a wound related to his paraplegia, friends said.
He lost the use of his legs in a 1964 car crash, the same year he earned a liberal arts degree from Eastern Oregon College – now Eastern Oregon University – in La Grande.
Donahue swam for exercise and had a passion for wheelchair basketball.
He also had a passion for Spokane County’s landmark courthouse and excelled at putting its history into context, Dalton said.
Donahue joined the auditor’s office as a clerical supervisor in 1968. He had just earned a second bachelor’s degree, in administration and accounting, from Eastern Washington State College, now Eastern Washington University.
Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed described Donahue as an election reformer who “played a major role in gaining vote-by-mail, voter registration by mail, a revised recall process for public officials and much more.”
The Republican Reed said Democrat Donahue was respected by legislators on both sides of the aisle, and “a few phone calls from Bill Donahue would turn around votes in no time.”Donahue was appointed auditor in July 1982 when Vernon Ohland stepped down – a couple of months after Fallquist was named county clerk.
“I always kidded him that I had seniority over him,” Fallquist said.
He, Dalton and Chilberg agreed Donahue liked humor.
Donahue took his work seriously but not himself, Fallquist said.
“Without question, in my mind he was the kindest, most caring individual I have known,” Fallquist said. “For me, he redefined the term honorable as it relates to public servants.
“When you put all of that together, he was one of a kind, and I miss him a great deal already.”
Funeral information is pending.