Friday, July 14, 2017
GOOD-BYE, BIG HUGH DONOHUE
There are people you meet once that you'll remember for the rest of your life.
Hugh Donohue was like that.
There are people you spend time with, get to know, and come away saying, "I'd fall on a
sword for that guy."
Hugh Donohue was like that, too.
If there was a food label on him it would read: 100 percent natural. No artificial flavors or
preservatives added. He was as pure and genuine as a person could possible be. Huge Donohue
was real--plain and simple.
Donohue died on July 13. He lived a full and spectacular life, leaving an indelible impression
on a countless number of people, including me and so many student-athletes who passed
through the University of North Carolina. He enriched the Carolina experience like few ever
have on the tree-lined campus in Chapel Hill.
At 6'8" with a barrel-chest, Donohue was a mountain of a man blessed with a big heart, warm personality, and an unforgettable booming voice. He played basketball for Dean Smith and the
Tar Heels, which automatically made him royalty in the eyes of many of the young athletes at
UNC. He shared the court with basketball legends like Larry Brown and Donnie Walsh and
was good friends with others such as Billy Cunningham, George Karl, and Bobby Jones.
If you loved Carolina, history, and sports, and needed a good story about all three, few could
weave it and make it come to life like Hugh Donohue. The New York native held court many
times as the owner of "Four Corners", a bar and restaurant that became a Franklin Street landmark
and hangout for just about every baseball player on what seemed like every night of the week.
We soaked up all of his stories and Carolina basketball memories. They were pure gold
Long before "Cheers" came along, "Four Corners" was a place where everyone knew your name.
It was a home away from home, a stadium, or the challenges that we all faced trying to balance books and baseball. Huge Donohue made it that way.
He let most of us drink for free and would often turn the other way if he caught us raiding
the refrigerator for a late night snack. I'm sure his profit margin went down significantly during
our years there, but I don't think Donohue cared one bit. He was putting smiles on a lot of faces
and that was important to him.
Mr. D. was like a best friend who never judged and went out of his way to help no matter what
your status on the baseball team was. He treated everyone the same: beautifully.
Several years ago, I ran into Mr. D in Westchester Country, New York, not far from where he
grew up in Yonkers. He was the same man I met 25 years earlier in Chapel Hill with just a little
more gray in his hair. We shared a lot of laughs then went our separate ways. It would be the
last time I'd ever see him.
I was saddened by the news of his death. Anytime a great man passes on it is hard for his
family and friends. But the sadness was followed by a mile-wide grin on my face. Hugh Donohue
was a beautiful man. One who provided some great laughs and helped connect Carolina athletes
from all walks of life forever.
Rest in peace, Mr. D. We will never forget you.