August 2, 2021 (Chesapeake Beach, MD)– The Mayor, Town Council, and Town staff send their deepest condolences to the Donovan family after hearing of the passing of Gerald W. Donovan on July 31, 2021

Mr. Donovan served the citizens of the Town of Chesapeake Beach as the Mayor for 24 years (from 1984-2008), served as the President of the North Beach Volunteer Fire Department, and has operated the Rod-N-Reel resort, which continues to serve as the largest employer in the Town.  Mr. Donovan also founded, and hosted, the successful Cancer Gala/ Celebration of Life raising over $5M for the American Cancer Society.

We will continue to keep the Donovan family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.  

“I join in mourning the loss of my dear friend and a giant for Chesapeake Beach and for Calvert County, Gerald Donovan. Throughout his lifetime, Gerald was a highly revered leader in our community, and he was admired by all who knew him. Gerald dedicated his life to cultivating an unsurpassed knowledge of Chesapeake Beach history, which made him a wise and wonderful mayor. He was generous and kind, and he spent much of his time serving as a mentor to the many young leaders who wanted to give back to their community and our nation and who sought him out for his advice and support. In addition to being remembered for his political and business acumen, Gerald will also be remembered for his efforts to fight cancer in our community and around the country.  His cancer gala was one of these,” U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer

“Like so many, I will remember Gerald’s friendship and leadership with admiration and respect. I send my condolences to his wife and partner Mary, to all of his family, and to the residents of his beloved town of Chesapeake Beach, which he served so well for so long and in so many different capacities. He made a profound and positive difference.  Gerald will be greatly missed by all who knew him and whose lives he enriched,” he continued.

The family issued the following statement:

Dear Rod ‘N’ Reel family.

With heavy hearts, we have sad news to share. Our owner, Mr. Gerald W. Donovan peacefully passed away at his home on Saturday, July 31st. Mr. Donovan had his loving wife. Mary, daughter Mary Lanham, and sons Wesley and Ryan along with their families, his siblings, and many of his grandchildren by his side.

Mr. Donovan gave so much to our community, where he set forth his vision for The Rod ‘N’ Reel Resort, and the family is committed to making his dreams a reality. We are so proud of his life’s work. He felt immense gratitude to those who helped him fulfill his dreams. He loved coming to work every day and as he often said. “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.” He truly loved what he did.

Mr. Donovan was a humble man who loved to serve. As a young man, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps, served as the president of the North Beach Volunteer Fire Department, participated in Leadership Maryland, and was on the Maryland Tourism Board, among others. One of his proudest accomplishments was starting the Cancer Gala/Celebration of Life along with his brother Freddie in memory of their father, Fred Donovan. Together, they raised more than $5 million dollars in over thirty years of events for the American Cancer Society. As the mayor of Chesapeake Beach for twenty-eight years, many of his accomplishments are enjoyed by thousands of residents and guests every year from the Water Park, the Railway Trail, Bayfront Park, the town’s annual fireworks display, and Veterans Memorial Park. After he retired from being mayor in 2008, he loved to drive around town looking at the new sidewalks, the decorative light poles with the hanging baskets full of flowers, all the while listening to Motown. Mr. Donovan loved the Christmas Season and was able to get support from the town council to light the entire town with festive lights and displays.

He loved Chesapeake Beach more than anyone, knew its history better than anyone, and made his mission as mayor to pul Chesapeake Beach back on the map, just as Otto Mears did in 1900. He was a teacher of all things business and Chesapeake Beach to those around him, like his Grandfather Wesley Stinnett, had been to him.

He taught us to love, work hard, and serve. We are honored to continue his legacy and keep his traditions alive.

There will be a private family service and a Celebration of Life to be announced at a later date. We request privacy during this time of mourning and that you please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

The Donovan Family


David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...

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