Robert E. Donadio Sr., a Baltimore County attorney who maintained a general law practice for more than half-century and enjoyed writing music, died Tuesday at Gilchrist Center Towson. The longtime Timonium resident was 89.
“Bob could float through courtrooms with wit, grace and style while quoting case law,” said Peter T. McDowell, a Towson lawyer. “You couldn’t meet a better soul. He was a very smart and humble guy who had such a beautiful smile.”
Mr. McDowell recalled the first day he met Mr. Donadio.
“It was at the old District Court in Dundalk and I was just out of law school. I was working in the Baltimore County prosecutor’s office,” Mr. McDowell said. “Of course, the attorneys all want to see the new meat and along comes this short little guy with blue eyes carrying a briefcase who shook my hand and said, ‘Welcome to the bar.’”
Michelle A. Greer first met Mr. Donadio in 1997 when she worked for him as a paralegal.
”For me, he was like a father figure and was my mentor. Since I was a little girl I wanted to be an attorney and Bob made that a dream for me,” Ms. Greer said. “He was a unique attorney. He had wisdom, knowledge and integrity.”
Robert Eugene Donadio Sr., son of Anthony Prosperous Donadio, chief legal counsel for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and his wife, Violet Carmelina Donadio, who danced with the Pandeen Sisters in vaudeville, was born in Indianapolis, and later moved with his family in 1934 to a home on Springlake Way in Homeland.
After graduating in 1950 from Calvert Hall College High School, Mr. Donadio began his college studies at Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, now Mount St. Mary’s University, and after two years, was drafted at the end of his sophomore year into the Army, where he served for four years as a medic.
After being discharged, he returned to Emmitsburg where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1958. He obtained his law degree in 1964 from the old Mount Vernon School of Law, now the University of Baltimore School of Law, and was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1965.
Mr. Donadio began practicing law with his brother, Raymond R. Donadio, in a Lexington Street office in downtown Baltimore where they were co-founders of Donadio & Donadio, and later to offices in the Loyola Federal Building and 300 E. Joppa Road in Towson.
When his brother retired in 2002, Mr. Donadio moved his law practice, Robert E. Donadio P.A., to his home on Eastridge Road in Timonium, where he continued practicing medical, malpractice, personal injury, and divorce and custody litigation.
At the time Ms. Greer was working for Mr. Donadio as a paralegal, she was married, raising two children and living in Woodlawn, when suddenly her husband, John, died of a stroke in 2003.
“Bob was there for me at that time and it was he who pushed me to fight the hospital and find justice for my husband, John,” she said.
“Working for Bob was never like a job, and every day I had breakfast and lunch with him and his wife, and took a swim in the pool,” Ms. Greer said. “When I went to work for another attorney as a paralegal, we kept close ties and he continued inspiring me. He taught me everything I know about family law and was helping me on cases when I was still a paralegal.”
It was Mr. Donadio’s wish that Ms. Greer would be included in all of his cases.
“He took me to court with him and let me partner with him in settlement cases before settlement judges,” she said.
Mr. Donadio continued helping Ms. Greer fulfill her destiny.
“I was a widow and it took 11 years to finish my undergraduate degree and law degree when I graduated in 2014. Bob was so much more than a mentor. It was he who kept my dream alive at such a tragic time in my life.”
After graduating from law school, she practiced one year with another firm before a call came from Mr. Donadio.
“He said, ‘Your old office is waiting for you.’ This is where I walked in as a paralegal and now I was walking in as a lawyer and hung my shingle next to his and felt such joy.”
She said that he “breathed and loved the law.”
“He was compassionate about the law making a difference. He always said, “Never leave a client empty-handed, always give them something.’ He just had a burning desire to help people,” Ms. Greer said. “They were not just numbers or cases. In the courtroom, he was a warrior who was driven by his heart and not the dollar. He always fought with all of his might.”
She said Mr. Donadio was gifted with a “phenomenal memory” and could recall details of cases from years ago.
“He took cases other attorneys didn’t want. These weren‘t slam-dunk cases. These were cases that made a difference in a client’s life,” Ms. Greer said. “He was an excellent litigator and today most attorneys use templates. I draft pleadings and motions because Bob taught me that way.”
In 1953, he married the former Frances Laverne Strutner, a homemaker, who raised their seven children.
“When Frances got sick, Bob refused to put her in a nursing home and cared for her at home,” Ms. Greer said.
Mr. Donadio enjoyed listening to music from the big band era of the 1930s and 1940s, and playing movie music and original compositions on the piano.Other interests included electronics, cars and motorcycles.
“He never retired and liked to say that he never lost a jury trial,” said a daughter, Jean M. Krocheski of Easton.
Mr. Donadio was a communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 101 Church Lane, Cockeysville, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Donadio is survived by three sons, Robert E. Donadio Jr. of Sonoran Foothills, Arizona, William L. Donadio of Nottingham and Gregory A. Donadio of Timonium; two other daughters daughter, Anne F. Pineau of Chester and Diane E. Inglesby of Chester; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Janet L. Donadio died in 1973.