Mary Elizabeth Broussard Donovan, beloved mother and matriarch, died peacefully in the early hours of May 28, 2022. She was 104 years of age. She will be remembered for her joie de vivre, her deep Catholic faith, her infinite graciousness and hospitality for everyone she met, and devotion to her family.
Mary Elizabeth was born in 1917, in Beaumont, Texas, where she grew up with her three sisters and one brother. At 16, she went to college, majoring in math at St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana. After graduation, she taught math at Dunbarton College of the Holy Cross in Washington, D.C. for one year.
When Mary Elizabeth heard from a friend about dancing opportunities in New York City, she decided to go. Despite her parents’ strong objections, she moved to Manhattan in the early 1940’s and took a job in a bookstore to support herself and enrolled at the School of American Ballet. There she studied under the direction of the legendary George Balanchine and other teachers with the Ballet Russe. She also practiced modern dance with Hanya Holmes and Martha Graham. She danced on Broadway in several shows, including “The Merry Widow” and “Around the World in 80 Days” under the direction of Orson Welles. In that spectacular, which was her favorite, Mary Elizabeth performed aerial dancing – twirling 20 feet in the air while hanging upside down from a rope by one ankle strap. After V-E Day in 1945, Mary Elizabeth performed in a musical with the USO in Europe, bringing smiles and entertainment to troops, before returning to NYC to continue in musical theater.
It was in New York City that she met the love of her life, Dr. Michael M. Donovan, who had served as a frontline surgeon with the U.S. Army in Europe. They soon married in Beaumont and moved to Manchester, England for his fellowship in orthopedics. They then went to Lawrence, Kansas, where Dr. Donovan briefly taught before the couple settled in Houston. Dr. Donovan co-founded Orthopaedic Associates, a private orthopedics practice; became chief of staff at Shriners Hospital for Children; and taught orthopedics at two prestigious Houston medical schools. Mary Elizabeth supported all of his endeavors.
Mary Elizabeth was active in many pursuits and advocated for several charitable, educational and religious causes. She supported the arts; the Junior League of Houston; the University of St. Thomas, including the Chapel Guild, the Center for Thomistic Studies and the Center for Irish Studies; the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Dominican Friars at Holy Rosary Church. She and her husband were co-founders of The Foundation for Life, her greatest passion.
During her nearly four decades as a widow, Mary Elizabeth continued to delight in God’s creation, especially at the family beach house on Bolivar Peninsula and in the birth, growth and activities of her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She also continued to enjoy the ballet, opera and traveling with family friend Mr. Albert Maverick III after both their spouses had passed.
Mary Elizabeth was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Michael M. Donovan; her sons, infant Michael and Dennis Daniel Donovan; her parents, Verena Bridget Green and Clyde Eloi Broussard; her sisters, Katherine Belle Doyle, Estelle Rita Schlueter and Annette Patricia Steinman; and her brother, Joseph E. Broussard II, or “Joe II.”
She is survived by her children and spouses, their children and their offspring: Michael Francis Donovan; Verena D. Isensee (Harry W. II); Mary Anne “Molly” Donovan; Catherine Elizabeth Urquhart (G. Wesley); and John J. Donovan (Denise); 19 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.
The family is very grateful to Isebel Hernandez for her many years of faithful service and care for Mary Elizabeth and to Cynthia Vories for special caregiving in recent years.
The visitation will be at Bradshaw-Carter Funeral Home at 1734 W. Alabama St. from four until seven o’clock in the evening with a Rosary and wake service at half past five o’clock on Friday, June 3, 2022. The funeral mass will be at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, 3617 Milam Street in Houston at nine o’clock in the morning on Saturday, June 4, 2022 with the Rev. Peter Damian Harris, O.P., as the celebrant. Pallbearers (including honorary) will be grandsons and great-grandsons: Michael Anthony Donovan; Harry W. Isensee III; Beau Donovan; John, Luke and Dayne Urquhart; and John II, Sean Patrick, Ian and Eoin Donovan. The funeral mass will be live streamed for those who cannot attend in person by visiting YouTube and searching for Holy Rosary Church Houston.
Following the mass, there will be a burial service at Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery and then a lunch reception nearby for family and guests.
In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to the Foundation for Life at www.foundationforlife.org/donate.html; the Southern Dominican Province at www.opsouth.org; The retired Dominican Sisters at www.domhou.org; or the University of St. Thomas-Chapel Guild at www.stthom.edu.