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Bruce Donnelly

May 13, 1941 – January 12, 2024

Rev. Robert Bruce Donnelly peacefully departed this life in the presence of family on January 12, 2024, at the age of 82 at the family home in Cobb County, Georgia.


His passing came following a declining medical condition. Bruce’s life will be celebrated at a memorial service at 2 o’clock pm on February 10, 2024, at Sandy Springs United Methodist Church, with a reception following.


His life was an abundance of service to others. Being born on May 13, 1941, in Mendon, Massachusetts, the family moved to Atlanta where Bruce was president of his class at Northside High School. He graduated from Emory University with both a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Theology. While at Emory, he was president of Chi Phi Fraternity.


Upon graduating from Emory University, Bruce embarked on a lifetime of philanthropic service. He was known as “The Hippie Minister” establishing the 12th Gate Coffee House in Midtown Atlanta, serving young people in a wholesome but “hip” atmosphere.


Following that, he moved to Chicago, where he worked with Mayor Richard Daley to administer aid to the downtrodden in Chicago’s fifth ward. After that, he joined the Institute for Cultural Affairs and began working overseas on special projects helping the poor by revitalizing communities. Bruce’s efforts made an impact in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Australia.


When he returned to the U.S., he began his career as Development Director with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, raising millions of dollars to help feed those in need. Bruce was the Minister of Singles at Sandy Springs United Methodist Church and the longtime Sunday School teacher for the Serendipity class.


In addition to his love of helping others, Bruce enjoyed watching the Braves & Boston Red Sox, old westerns, traveling, hot fudge sundaes, sock-hops, and especially spending time with his 3 grandchildren.


Family surviving Bruce include his wife, Martha Kissinger Donnelly; stepchildren, Allison Gadrix Spampanato, Edward Markham Gadrix, Christopher Guy Gadrix; sister, RoyAnne Donnelly, and grandchildren, Leo and Gavin Spampanato of Fairfax, California, and Madeline Gadrix of Marietta, Georgia.

When I saw Bruce in October he said he’d had some serious medical issues; but he was the same outgoing host for a reunion of the original Atlanta house.  I’m attaching the photo of our recent gathering in the fall with Ike and Charlene Powell, Jean Watts, Martha Laird and Bruce. Eileen and George Howard had left before the picture was taken. The papers on the dining room table visible in the background were old ICA brochures he’d kept.

                     ~~  Elizabeth Caperton



I remember, especially, Bruce’s twinkly eyes and his way of standing at an angle . . . An old spiritual, that I don’t remember ever learning, goes round in my head, and sometimes I sing these few lines aloud — at our food bank or just anywhere

“Oh what fellowship, oh what joy divine

Leaning on the everlasting arms…”

          ~~  Jim Wiegel


Bruce was the Emcee for the Cabarets staged in the South House and at the ’72 (?) Summer program. He brought his hippie reverend to a new social role with great Panache and a twinkle!

          ~~  Cheryl Hood


I also did not know that Bruce was an ordained Minister. Thank you for enlarging my spirit. In peace, thanks be to God for these two saints, Bruce and my hubby Jim.

           ~~  Isobel Bishop, in Sydney


I realize now how little we knew of our colleagues, with whom we worshipped and worked, day after day, in the Order. I never knew Bruce was an ordained minister, much less the “hippy priest” before he joined our fold.  I always saw him a “the slick, Development Guy,” who was always on the road visiting Patrons.  But our kids knew differently.  Bruce was way ahead of our plodding technology (telexes and WATTS calls).  He and his first wife, Barbara, installed a HUGE SCREEN at the end of the hall on the 7th floor in the Kemper Building in Chicago, and invited us to watch all kinds of interesting films, likely then VHS tapes.  He introduced our emerging generation (and us ole fogeys)  to what is now common practice. I celebrate the full life of service he gave in so many ways, over so many years.  Thank you Bruce Donnelly, for being you.

          ~~  Marilyn Crocker