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Tim Donovan

Tim Donovan in 2005

I've been spending way too much time these days saying farewell to old friends who've been a part of my life lo these many years.

That's what getting older inevitably brings, no matter how hard you wish it weren't so.

This weekend, folks will be saying their final goodbyes to another of those friends who added so much to the journey we call life.

But Tim Donovan really doesn't qualify as one of the "old" ones. He passed away last month at the age of 65 a few weeks after he was struck down by an aneurysm that ruptured in his brain while he was at home getting ready to go to work.

Many of you may remember Tim. He was the no-nonsense public affairs voice of Wisconsin's National Guard for several years before retiring in 2011. It was a huge, demanding job that took on added significance as the regular military relied more on the Guard to help fight those wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and also deployed them to other trouble spots around the globe.

When Wisconsin's 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the successor to the state's famed "Red Arrow" Division of Worlds Wars I and II, was deployed to Iraq in February 2009, Tim volunteered to go with them to do the public affairs work. I don't think another military unit had as much coverage as Lt. Col. Donovan got for them during those 11 months in the war-torn Mideast.

He'd regularly arrange to beam live coverage back to to Wisconsin television stations and provided a steady stream of press releases and news accounts for anxious folks back home hungry for news of loved ones.

Back when he was a "Spec 4," Tim was in the Guard unit I commanded back in the day. We had a special affinity because, like me, Tim was an artilleryman when on active duty. After he returned to the Guard, he was transferred to the public affairs detachment because he was a TV reporter in civilian life and we needed soldiers who had that expertise if we were to reach all media.

He possessed a bubbling personality, serious at work — and with all the Irish in him, fun at play, which included belting out Irish melodies at St. Patrick's time and Frank Sinatra favorites at unit parties. It wasn't long before Tim received a direct commission as a first lieutenant and soon was picked to serve the Wisconsin Guard full time.

After he retired from the Guard, he took the public affairs post at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital here in Madison, a job that once again threw him into the media front lines, answering questions and providing insight during the height of the VA hospitals' controversy of a few years ago. No one could handle a public affairs crisis like Tim.

His family has arranged for a funeral service with full military honors this coming Saturday at 4 at the Ryan Funeral Home, 2418 Sherman Ave. There will be a visitation an hour before. And after the service, his family and friends will gather at Kavanaugh's Esquire Club, just down the street at 1025 Sherman, for a traditional military "roasting."

No one would have enjoyed that roasting more than Tim Donovan. Godspeed.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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