Gertrude Louise Wooten Donnelly, of Springfield PA, who, long before the Mad Men years, helped perfect the execution of radio and early television advertising campaigns, died on Monday May 20th at the VITAS Hospice at Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital in Darby, PA.
Born in Philadelphia on April 22, 1922, Ms. Donnelly was the second of six children of Harry and Helen Wooten. She grew up in East Lansdowne and graduated with the first Marple Newtown High School Class in 1940.
After a brief stint as a telephone operator at Bell of PA, Ms. Donnelly joined the Al Paul Lefton Company in 1941 as Executive Secretary to its eponymous CEO/President and founder. Ms. Donnelly handled contracts and logistics for a number of key clients including RCA and Schmidt’s Beer. The days of live television brought special challenges. On a given day she might serve as engineer and psychologist, prying open a stuck refrigerator door while calming the nerves of the celebrity attempting to demonstrate the appliance. Managing contractual obligations sometimes involved real time emergency schedule shuffling to avoid adjacent scheduling of competing beer vendors’ ads.
The lone Irish woman in the firm at the time, she was known as Mickey. In an early manifestation of “taking it back” she chose to interpret the name as a reference to her love for baseball and Mickey Mantle. She kept it; friends and neighbors were often surprised to hear her called Gertrude .
By 1957 she was growing bored and considering a move to a larger NY agency. Fate intervened when she broke her tooth on a stale Chicklet. She visited a handsome young dentist, a WW II veteran and Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Reserve, Francis Donnelly. They were married and at 38 she had her first child, Kim; a second, Lynn, followed 6 years later.
She reared her children and completed her Associate’s Degree. She became a teacher’s aide at St. Francis of Assisi. When her beloved Fran died at 60, in 1983, she returned to advertising, this time at the Springfield Press where she coordinated advertising and classifieds. She remained a key resource at the Press for 27 years until her position was finally eliminated as a result of mergers and downsizings.
Forced into retirement at 88 she kept busy with her favorite hobbies. She was a voracious reader and an avid gardener.
She is survived by her daughters Kim (Kurt Gluck) of Piscataway, NJ and Lynn of Springfield, PA, by grandchildren Jonathan and Joshua Gluck and Kristina Brotzman, by her brother Rick (Tory) Wooten, and by numerous nieces and nephews. She was a powerful influence on generations of children, particularly stressing education. To the end her strength and independence was a marvel.
A Memorial Mass will be held at St. Francis of Assisi in Springfield on May 29th at 11am. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be directed to the Springfield Township Library, 70 Powell Road, Springfield PA 19064 or to VITAS Community Connection, 225 E. 5th St., Suite 2600, Cincinnati, OH 45202.
Gertrude Louise Wooten Donnelly (1922-2013)