Edit: A previous version of this article mentioned Officer Brian Donaldson as Chief Donaldson’s son. Brian Donaldson is the grandson of Chief Donaldson.
By JEFF HANOUILLE
Longmeadow News Editor
LONGMEADOW – A beloved former police chief who served the town for almost 37 years passed away earlier this month and is being mourned by the community.
Retired Longmeadow Police Chief John S. Donaldson, who joined the department as a patrolman in 1951 and served as chief from 1982-1988, passed away at the age of 90 in Redondo Beach, California, on Friday, April 1.
“He left a legacy of law enforcement here,” said Police Lt. Robert A. Stocks, the department’s public information officer. “He was a cop’s cop and was dedicated to serving the Town of Longmeadow.”
Donaldson was hired in 1951 and promoted to sergeant in 1967. On July 1, 1982, he was promoted to chief, a role he held until his retirement in 1988.
Stocks said that even in retirement Donaldson would visit the Longmeadow Police Dept. every so often to say hello and see how things were operating.
“Even though some of us didn’t work with him, we did have the opportunity to meet him,” Stocks said. “He was one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He was always interested in the profession. Even in retirement, he expressed interest in how the Town was doing, what types of crimes were happening, the current patrol procedures and how they differed from now to back when he was working. He was just one of the nicest guys, and I can’t say enough about him. He struck me as a consummate police officer. He was professional and had a real knack for making you feel welcome.”
Stocks said Donaldson’s daughter, Jan Selden, worked for the department as an administrative secretary from 1998-2015. He said Donaldson’s grandson, Officer Brian Donaldson, has been working for the department since 1998. After retiring in 1988, Donaldson was replaced as chief by Richard Marchese. Following Marchese were chiefs Robert Danio, Robert Siano, and current Police Chief John Stankiewicz.
The LPD originally announced the news of Donaldson’s passing on its Facebook page with the following post: “It is with great regret that we inform you of the passing of retired Longmeadow Police Chief John S. Donaldson. Chief Donaldson joined the department as a patrolman on October 19, 1951. He was promoted to Sergeant on April 1, 1967 and to Chief on July 1, 1982. Chief Donaldson retired on July 1, 1988 after serving almost 37 years to the Town of Longmeadow. He passed on April 1, 2016 in Redondo Beach California.”
On that post, people left comments offering condolences and memories about the former chief.
Mark G. Auerbach, a contributor to the Longmeadow News, wrote: “I grew up in Longmeadow, and officer Donaldson was my favorite police offer in town. He remembered all of our names. He was such a nice guy and a reassuring presence. RIP.”
David Frank wrote: “Sargent/Chief Donaldson was my favorite policeman as a child growing up in town. He was the epitome of post war life in Longmeadow. I recall our dog Smoky would runaway when we lived on Edgewood Ave and he’d always bring him back to us. He’d open up the community so we could watch movies downstairs. Need to name a town building after John Donaldson.”
Tracy Carman wrote: “Rest in peace, Chief. We used to go to the Sheriff’s annual picnics together MANY years ago. Truly a gentlemen. My deepest condolences to the Donaldson family.”
Barbara Haddad Saba wrote: “Everyone who grew up in town has wonderful memories of this wonderful man. At twilight on an autumn day in 1962, Mr. Donaldson thought I should be home before dark, put my bike in his trunk and drove me home from the library. That’s who he was.
Calling hours for Donaldson will be from 4-7 p.m. on Friday, April 22 at Forastiere Smith Funeral Home in East Longmeadow. A funeral service will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 23 at the funeral home, followed by burial with military honors at Longmeadow Cemetery.