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Donald Gerard Sweeney
October 2, 1941 ~ November 27, 2023 (age 82) 82 Years Old
Donald Gerard Sweeney left this earth on November 27, 2023 at age 82, beginning his next great adventure. A loving son and brother, a beloved husband, father, and grandfather, dear uncle and friend, Donald was born October 2, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York to Ethel Bernadette (Donnelly) Sweeney and David Gerard Sweeney.
During his youth, Donald’s family spent wonderful summers in a bungalow at Conners Hotel and Beach Club in Highlands, NJ from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the only traveling he did until adulthood. His dream was to relocate from New York and to travel the world, and he definitely fulfilled this dream.
He received 16 years of Catholic education, beginning with Holy Name of Jesus (Brooklyn), his parish church school, where he was an altar server; Xavier High School, ’59, (Manhattan), a Jesuit military school, where he learned everything needed to succeed in life; and Manhattan College, ’63, (The Bronx), where he majored in Physics, yet knew that was not his eventual calling. After a Thanksgiving retreat in 1961, he returned home to share the good news of his decision to attend graduate school when he learned that his mother was terminally ill with a brain tumor. He was able to continue with his plans to attend Columbia University on a full fellowship, graduating with an MBA, ‘65, his first academic experience with women and non-Catholics!
In February 1965, he married Lucille Rose Tramont and began his 32-year career with Exxon in New Jersey, where daughter Christine Bernadette was born. In 1967, they moved to Japan, living in Tokyo and Yokohama, where daughter Jennifer Rose was born. His career then took the family to Singapore, Houston, Morristown, NJ, and finally back to Houston as Information Systems Manager, first with Esso Eastern until 1986, then with Exxon Coal and Minerals until his retirement in 1997.
Following his divorce in 1980 and annulment, Donald met Rhonda Feightner at an Exxon Christmas party in December 1981, and they were married at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in January 1988. After his retirement, Donald was the consummate house husband for 10 years, doing the cooking, shopping, errands, and planning travel adventures, until Rhonda retired in 2006.
Once they had no constraints on their time, they enjoyed numerous trips each year, international and domestic, including several weeks in Hawaii each summer for over 20 years which Donald enjoyed sharing with the family and many friends over the years. Donald had been to 88 countries before health issues slowed them down, but we know he is enjoying #89 now. He and Rhonda loved traveling the world, across all continents including Antarctica. They visited Southern Africa on 3 photo safaris, drove throughout Italy on many trips including the harrowing Amalfi Coast, and explored Eastern Europe on driving trips and a Danube cruise. Japan was a favorite destination, not only because Donald had lived there, but because of its beauty and friendships maintained through the years. Travels in South America and Australia were a fortunate by-product of the last years of his career, and again, long-lasting friendships were formed. A favorite cruise was a month-long exploration of WWII Pacific battle islands, beginning in Auckland, NZ and ending in Kobe, Japan, with stops in Guadalcanal, Yap, Rabaul, Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Nagasaki.
Donald was an avid reader of biographies and history, with a focus on WWII, and he had numerous favorite fiction authors. He was also an avid movie-goer from his earliest days at Brooklyn’s Sanders movie house on Prospect Park to the River Oaks Theatre in Houston, and amassed an enormous collection of DVDs before the advent of cable and streaming. As a young man, he often went to Broadway shows with his mother, where his all-time greatest theatrical experience was seeing the original West Side Story in 1957, and enjoyed returning annually to New York City for theater, dining, and opera. He loathed cellphones and proudly never owned one, preferring to visit over a beer or while smoking a Cuban cigar.
Donald was a generous supporter of many organizations, including St. Anne Catholic Community, Catholic Charities, Apollo Chamber Players, and Houston Grand Opera, and was always quick to point out that he introduced Rhonda to opera, not the other way around! Donald was loyal, generous, witty, intelligent, caring, and loving. He never met a stranger and will be missed by many. His post-retirement business card had only his name, email address, and “Opinions”, of which he had many and shared freely.
During his lifetime Donald was Dad, Papa, Uncle Donald, “the Kid”, and Sweeney-san, but never Don! No matter where he lived, he was always a “New York Irish Catholic”. Donald was preceded in death by his parents Ethel and Dave Sweeney, his brother David Sweeney Jr., and Lucille Sweeney. In addition to Rhonda, he is survived by his daughters Jennifer Sweeney, Denver, CO, Christine Wardwell (Chris), Houston, TX, grandson Jacob Dylan Wardwell, Houston, TX, and numerous nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Anne Catholic Community, Houston Grand Opera, or the charity of your choice. A funeral mass will be held on Saturday, December 2, 2023 at ten o’clock in the morning at St. Anne Catholic Community, 2140 Westheimer Road, with a reception immediately following in St. Theresa’s Living Room in the Parish Center. A private burial will take place at Glenwood Cemetery.