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Donald Gonya, retired general counsel of the Social Security Administration

Donald Gonya, retired general counsel of the Social Security Administration
Donald A. Gonya, retired general counsel of the Social Security Administration, died July 7. (Handout)

Donald Alan Gonya, the retired general counsel of the Social Security Administration at Woodlawn, died of kidney failure July 7 at Grand Strand Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The former Ellicott City resident was 82.

Born in Berlin, N.H., he was the son of Wilson Gonya, a salesman, and Winifred Devlin, a homemaker. He lived in Berlin and Manchester, N.H., and was a 1953 graduate of Manchester Central High School, where he played basketball and was a ski jumper. He earned a bachelor's degree at the University of New Hampshire, where he was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.

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He then joined the Air Force and was stationed in Charleston, S.C. While in the military, he met his future wife, Suzanne DuRant, who was then a Medical University of South Carolina graduate student.

After leaving the military Mr. Gonya earned a degree at Boston University School of Law.

He then joined the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare as an attorney and held posts in Charlottesville, Va., and Philadelphia.

In 1973, Mr. Gonya moved to Ellicott City when he was named deputy chief counsel of the Social Security Administration. During his career, he also served as acting chief counsel for HEW's Office of the Inspector General and headed up SSA's Office of Hearing and Appeals. In 1980, Mr. Gonya was named chief counsel. He held the position until his retirement in 1994.

He was a member of the Forest Hill Swim and Tennis Club in Ellicott City, where he played tennis. A lifelong baseball fan, he remained devoted to the Boston Red Sox and hosted family outings to the old Memorial Stadium when his team competed against the Orioles.

Mr. Gonya wreceived the president's Meritorious Service Award in 1980 and 1988.

He was also a charter member of the Federal Government's Senior Executive Service.

His family will receive friends at noon Saturday at the Elkridge Country Club, 6100 N. Charles St.

Survivors include a son, Jeffrey Keenan Gonya of Ruxton; two daughters, Karen Gonya Nickles of Ellicott City and Gail Gonya Willard of Raleigh, N.C.; and seven grandchildren. His wife of 55 years died in 2014.

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