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Fairlawn man is Veteran of Year

11/1/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Harry Donovan is shown with his Purple Heart and other medals he received from his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. The Summit County Veterans Service Commission recently named Donovan, of Fairlawn, Veteran of the Year.
Photo: Kathleen Folkerth
FAIRLAWN — Giving back to others is a habit Harry Donovan adopted at an early age.

“God has been good to me, but I’ve always shared,” said the Fairlawn resident, 85, who was named the Veteran of the Year by the Summit County Veterans Service Commission (VSC) during a special event Oct. 25.

Donovan, who has been an active volunteer for and donor to many local nonprofit organizations, many of them focused on the needs of veterans, said he learned the importance of giving back as a child. While working at age 11 in a small grocery store, he was pleased to receive $3 at the end of the week. When he showed the money to his mother, she promptly told him that 30 cents should be put aside for church.

He admitted that it wasn’t something he wanted to do, but he did it, and since then he has seen the blessings that come from giving to others.

Donovan is a native of the Kenmore area. After graduating from Kenmore High School at age 17, he joined the U.S. Navy during the last year of World War II.

“My best buddy was in the Air Corps,” he said. “He told me I ought to consider that. But I thought, I can swim but I can’t fly, so I went down that day and joined the Navy.”

After six weeks of boot camp, he was sent to the South Pacific and was assigned to work on a troop ship. He worked to transfer 30 equipped soldiers at a time to the beach of occupied Japanese islands.

“I loved the Navy,” he said.

His two brothers also served, and all three returned home safely after the war, he added.

In the years that followed, he married his first wife, Mabel, and they had three children. He enrolled and completed a two-year business school program and then enrolled at The University of Akron to become a certified public accountant.

After working for a local firm for nine years, Donovan opened his own accounting business and enjoyed a successful career. Around 1970, he unexpectedly got a call from Washington, D.C., asking him to consider an appointment to become an economic adviser to President Richard Nixon.

He took the appointment but lasted just three months.

“I was not happy with Washington,” he said. “I didn’t know you take in $10 and put out $1 million.”

He had sold his firm, however, so he was now in his 40s, retired and living in Marco Island, Fla. At the time, the island was not very developed, and he saw the potential in it, investing in several lots. He sold them and made many times his original investment, he said.

But the retired life was not for Donovan.

“I was so bored,” he said. “I came back to Ohio and opened an office and became a consultant. I thought, if I could retire at 40, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could help others become successful?”

The firm is known today as Donovan Klimczak and Co. Donovan said he always made a point to enjoy work by having fun with clients and supporting his staff by cooking for them once a week.

Donovan and his wife were married for 50 years when she died after living with Alzheimer’s disease for many years. Eight years ago, he married Fran, a retired Akron Public Schools teacher.

Donovan has always been involved in church, and when he and Fran married, he converted to her Catholic faith. They attend St. Hilary Church in Fairlawn.

As for Donovan’s contributions to the community, VSC officials cite his initiating a scholarship for veterans through the VSC. He also sits on the board of Honor Flight of Akron-Canton, which recently completed its goal of providing local World War II veterans the chance to visit memorials in Washington, D.C.

Donovan also has been instrumental in the creation of Valor Home, a residence for homeless veterans of any age. The facility is expected to open in Akron in the spring, he said. Donovan is also an active member of the VFW Post No. 349.

In addition, he has worked with OPEN M and was instrumental in helping the organization complete its building project for a new facility more than a decade ago.

Donovan said helping others, especially veterans, has become a way of life for him.

“So many people don’t understand when you have been in a war and had buddies killed around you, and you’ve been exposed to someone shooting at you and you are just so glad you got home,” he said. “It can be difficult to get your life back together.”

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