Donna Marie Carroll, a longtime resident of Martha’s Vineyard, died on Sept. 12 in Austin, Tex., after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 59.
Donna was born in Philadelphia, Pa., on Jan. 14, 1954, the daughter of the late Andrew (Whimp) Carroll and Catherine (Schreck) Carroll. She grew up and spent her school years in Bensalem, Pa.
Probably the last thing Donna Carroll planned to do was to die in the great state of Texas. It just wasn’t her idea of going out in style. Her idea of going out in style would be more like dancing in an all-male chorus line review, dressed in sequins and boas, somewhere in Nevada, and tripping in high heels over a drag queen into the orchestra pit, where she might knock her noggin. Donna loved being around exotic characters, and at times was one herself. Donna lived many years on the Island, where she raised her two sons, Zachary and Matthew, and where she cooked and did catering for everyone from the aged in the old folks home to the First Family and their friends. People may have hired her as much for her dramatic flair as for her food. Donna believed in the power of people, and the impact they could have. She believed in taking chances and being bold. She had a wicked sense of humor, a huge smile and loved to laugh. She hated bureaucracy, pettiness, operating computers and driving oversized vehicles (which were often required for her work). Like Truman Capote, she swore she was working on a tell-all novel — never completed, it was to chronicle her adventures as a caterer to the rich and famous on Martha’s Vineyard, with the title Recipes & Rumors.
She had many colorful tales to tell and offbeat news stories to repeat, and would love to shock and awe her friends and clients with a fresh batch daily. Because she was always so full of life, it was hard to believe that she had become sick with an illness that would soon overtake her way of being. Just as she had dealt with the death and dying of her beloved dog Mellie in an unorthodox way — feeding her a steady diet of filet mignon and Swiss chocolate and taking her for long walks on the beach — she chose her own way of dealing with her own mortality. With the inevitability of hair loss, Donna’s fashion sense was magnified with a series of dramatic wigs and spectacularly bold hats that she liked to wear to social events and outings. Like the band still playing music on the Titanic as it began to sink, she too would be going out in style.
In contrast to being colorful (and sometimes outrageous) with friends and colleagues, to the next generation she may well be remembered as a sweet, caring auntie. One who looked out for their best interests, made them meals and often housed them.
Donna is survived by her two sons, Zachary and Matthew Ritchie; her step daughter Belinda Ritchie; her brothers, Drew Carroll and his wife Pam and Kevin Carroll and his wife Kelly; her sister Kathey Carroll-Denice; two nieces and six nephews; and her ex-husband, Somers Ritchie. Donna is also survived by a slew of friends who will miss her indomitable spirit and endless imagination.
Donna will be interred next to her parents in Resurrection Cemetery in Bensalem, Pa.
A memorial service on the Vineyard will be held for Donna at a later date, to be announced.