Obituary: Dorothy J. McDonough / Mother of 8 always had thirst for adventure, travel

July 13, 1929 - May 2, 2014

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The path to learning and adventure led Dorothy J. McDonough to familiar and far-flung places, from a Pittsburgh suburb with her husband and eight children to the Dalai Lama in India, a bare-bones Russian hotel room during the Cold War and an empty swimming pool in Braddock for a Quantum Theatre production.

“I had more fun with Dorothy McDonough than anybody I ever had as a friend, I just did. She wasn’t silly in any way but she was just so willing to do anything and curious and adventuresome and I loved that,” said Joan Bope of Ross, a former neighbor and friend of 50 years.

“If it was different, we were there. Dorothy was not a judgmental person, never critical of others. She truly believed everybody was finding their own way and that whatever way they were doing it, was the right way for them.”

Mrs. McDonough, 84, died May 2 at Providence Point in Scott. She had moved there from Mount Washington a few days before Christmas. Although she quit smoking cold turkey in 1974, thanks to meditation, she was diagnosed with emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2004.

Throughout that battle, she remained in good spirits, her son Michael McDonough of Cranberry said. “She looked forward to ‘crossing over’ and embarking upon the next stage of her journey. … In the end, this exceptionally loving mother, grandmother, friend, confidant, teacher, student and advanced thinker gave a multiple of what she took. She will be sorely missed.”

Born Dorothy Theresa Jelley in Mount Washington, she lost her mother at age 4 and her father not long after. She graduated from Mount Mercy Academy at the top of her class and, at 20, earned a degree in sociology from Mount Mercy College, now Carlow University.

She met her future husband, Thomas J. McDonough, at a wedding where he pointed her out to a pal, “See that blonde in the corner, I’m going to marry her.” And he did, on his 29th birthday, March 1, 1954.

“My dad always said it was the best birthday present he ever got. He was completely devoted to her,” their eldest, Maggie McDonough of Durham, N.C., recalled this week.

The McDonoughs settled in Ross in 1960 and raised eight children, some of whom tagged along as she delivered Meals on Wheels or joined her in reading to the blind on the radio.

Her husband was a prominent insurance salesman and Pittsburgh character whose nickname was “Maniac.” He was never without jokes or puns, and if his wife had heard them before, you would not have known it, given her appreciative, robust laugh.

She practiced Transcendental Meditation and yoga, studied at the Association for Research and Enlightenment in Virginia Beach, Va., and led courses and weekly study groups in “A Course in Miracles,” the last two days before her death. Among her favorite ACIM sayings: “Teach only love for that is what you are,” and “Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists, herein lies the peace of God.”

Mrs. McDonough traveled to Russia with a spiritual group in 1986 — talking with a friend to the bare bulb in her room in case it was a listening device — and in 1996, journeyed to India. She stayed in an ashram, met with the Dalai Lama as part of a group, studied Mother Teresa’s capacity for love and rode an elephant, too.

She earned her realtor license in her 60s and, whether living in Ross for 25 years or a cozier condo on Mount Washington, regularly welcomed the schoolmates of her children who reunited at her dining room table to reminisce and catch up.

In addition to her eldest daughter and son, she is survived by her children Molly McCreary of Whitehall, Mary Beth McDonough of Great Barrington, Mass., Eileen Morris-Grantham of Lisbon, Portugal, Amy Weber of Hudson, Ohio, and Tim McDonough of Miami, Fla., and 11 grandchildren.

A memorial service will be scheduled for late May.

Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632.


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