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Creative Writing

I was born on Monday, February 7, 1921, in Highlands, Monmouth County, NJ, the first, and only, child of Jack and Adena Liming Donnelly. Both sides of Mom's family were long-established in Monmouth for many generations, while Dad's parents were immigrants to New York City - his father from Ireland, and mother from Luxembourg. My Dad was born in 1875, 21 years before my Mom.

I grew up in Highlands and went to the local schools. After I graduated from high school [many years later I would attend my 50th high school class reunion] I wanted to make a life for myself in a world bigger than my upbringing had offered, and the first opportunity to do so came in 1942 when I was drafted into the Army.

I was first stationed at Camp Carson, about one mile up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and was part of a mule pack artillery battalion. I would later end up in Army Intelligence, stationed at Camp Hale, also in the Colorado mountains, at 9,600 feet. Visible nearby were Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert. The Army was an important formative period in my life. I was away from home and on my own for the first time. It was often rough and tough, and the winters were often cold, but I pushed myself and worked hard. I was able to successfully challenge myself and felt a real sense of accomplishment. I also grew to love the land out in Colorado, and its vastness and rugged beauty moved me deeply, as evidenced in this section from a letter written to the folks back home in Highlands:

I crawled over to a Prairie-Dog hole, stuffed it with tumble-weeds and used that for a pillow, and piled dead Prairie-Grass under me for a bed, and laid there on my back and stared up at the most beautiful Western Sky imaginable. Gee, what a feeling! Looking up at the moon and the stars and the Big Dipper I could actually see them moving across the sky. Cheyenne Mountain was silhouetted in the moonlight, and the snow-capped crest of Pike's Peak, bathed in the cool glow of the moon, looked almost like a phosphorescent mountain giving off an eerie radium-like glow. And then, periodically a plane would swoop down the silvery path of the moon. The feeling of exultation which came over me looking at that fantastic sky will remain in my heart as long as I live.

I made a resolution right then. To come back to Colorado when this world conflict is over -- back to Pike's Peak, and Cheyenne Mountain; the sage-brush, and the Prairie-Dogs, and the tumbling tumble-weed. When I do come back it will be under peace-time circumstances; and when that day comes my heart will really be at peace.

For the duration of the war I know that no matter what I'm doing or where I may be called upon to do it, there will always be that spark burning in my heart -- that indefinable urge to return to this -- to God's Country -- and hike over the hills, or mount a good horse and ride over the mountains by day, and then when evening comes out on the lone prairie, to crawl into a sleeping bag and lay there beneath the stars and the moon, and draw a breath of the clear dry mountain air. Then, only then, will I say to myself, "This is what your restless heart desires -- this, all this is yours."

When I first looked up at the sky last night I experienced the usual and natural human emotion of feeling so utterly insignificant and unimportant when compared to the incalculable vastness of the universe. But, suddenly, while watching the saga of the stars, and their endless journey through space, the thought struck me that I was (in reality) so fortunate, and (in my own small way) even important. Because all these millions of stars had their course planned out for them, and there was nothing they could do to alter it -- they were going around in circles, and if they didn't disintegrate or commit some other form of celestial suicide, they would always be going around in circles.

And yet, here I was, the Captain of my Soul, and the Master of my Fate, as the poets so aptly phrase it. It was up to me whether I was going places, and it was up to me (to a great extent) whether the place I was going was forward or backward. It made me shudder to think of how dull and listless life would be if I knew that I would just be traveling forever around in circles with no goal in life and no means to achieve that goal even if it did exist.

After the Army, I went to the New York Phoenix School of Design. I had been interested in art and writing growing up, and I decided I wanted to be a commercial artist. I learned so much from teachers like Franklin Booth, the renowned American illustrator. I enjoyed my time at the Phoenix School, and after I graduated even became an instructor (I taught there off and on for 19 years) and trustee.

I began my own practice as a commercial artist, but in addition to the art work itself, I began to expand my scope by incorporating art into the broader framework of advertising and publication. I wanted to present myself as a creative communications specialist. I conceived and produced advertising campaigns, exhibits, educational programs and books for prestige clients, including the New York Stock Exchange, Teachers College, Columbia University, Henry Holt and Co. (which later became Holt, Rinehart & Winston), the U.S. Army, the New York State Department of Education, St. Joseph Lead Company and the American Nurses Association.

While I was in New Hampshire, at Mildred Reid's writers colony, I suffered a collapsed lung. The nurse who took care of me eventually became my wife. Nancy Hoit and I were married in 1950, in her hometown of Goffstown, NH. We had two sons, Jack, born in 1951, and Jeff, born in 1954. Jack is the Andrew Mellon Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver ( check out his site at .) Jeff is retired after a long finance-IT business career and is now living full time in Florida.

From 1951-1955 I worked at Columbia University as the Art Director and Production Manager for the Citizenship Education Project. Conceived by General Eisenhower to further the teaching and awareness of the principles of American liberty, the project was funded by the Carnegie Foundation. We developed and produced, from start to finish, organizational materials, books, brochures, pamphlets, periodicals, and visual aids. The publications received the Freedoms Foundation Medal.

In 1956 I was appointed Publications Manager of Burns and Roe, Inc. and seven subsidiary corporations which constituted one of the world's largest engineering and construction complexes.

Burns and Roe was an old-line consulting engineering firm, prominent in power plant design and construction, which dramatically entered the aerospace and nuclear fields in 1955 with the simultaneous receipt of four of the largest engineering contracts ever awarded. Its professional staff expanded in a few months from 200 to over 1,100. Many new defense contracts required extremely complicated manuals, reports and other publications. Also, public relations, advertising and proposal efforts had to be intensified to generate a steady client base to sustain the sudden growth. I had complete administrative and line responsibility for internal and external technical publications, advertising and sales promotion materials, public relations, and employee publications. Burns and Roe was involved in many fascinating projects, including SAGE (Semi Automatic Ground Environment System), the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, Telstar, and the Project Mercury Man-In-Space Program.

Exciting and intense as this work was, I felt the need for something different to stimulate my imagination, challenge my abilities and teach me something new. I became Advertising and Sales Promotion Manager for a large paper corporation, where I had complete creative control over all media that promoted the company's lines of fine commercial papers. My work there won many industry awards. The range of work was broad and diverse, and I was even able to combine some of my outside interests in the company projects. One promotion for a paper line featured precious and semi precious stones which I had cut and faceted myself. The home page of this website shows photos of rocks in daylight and under fluorescent light that were used in another advertising promotion. The stones themselves were from my own collection of fluorescent minerals, some of which I had mined myself. Photographing them was a huge challenge, since individual rocks give off their best color under different wavelengths. This project took my longtime interest in photography to a new level, one which I enjoyed and sought to pursue further. I was a member of the Inter-Society Color Council and participated in their Conference on Fluorescence and the Colorimetry of Fluorescent Materials.

After I retired I kept busy and engaged with various personal projects. I had taken courses and had become proficient in relaxation and mind control techniques, based on understanding and directing brain wave patterns and activity to produce desired mental and physiological results in practitioners of the techniques. I had successfully been able to control and alleviate insomnia and anxiety in myself, and had some private clients whom I had helped with issues such as smoking and weight loss. I developed and implemented marketing and fund raising strategies for a local hospital. I was able to do a lot of writing, which I never seemed to be able to find time to do. I would find something that piqued my interest, and then dive into it as deeply as I could for many months at a time. One such foray of discovery was the poetry of Rumi, the great poet, philosopher and mystic in 13th century Persia.

When I was 81, I had a slight heart attack, at which time it was found I needed triple bypass surgery. The surgery was successful, but I never really came back to my old level of strength. My health has been somewhat compromised ever since, and there were times I went through difficult bouts of depression and anxiety. My life now is relatively calm and peaceful, and among my favorite activities now is listening to classic short stories of all genres on cd's. I have quite a library of them, and play them over and over, discovering new favorites and new twists and nuances each time I listen to them.

On January 30, 2011, just about a week before my 90th birthday, I became a grandfather for the first time. My oldest son, Jack, had his first child with his wife, Katy. My grandson's name is Kurosh, and I have so enjoyed keeping up with him, and we all know how quickly times passes and how fast we grow up and mature. At 92, I look back over a long and fruitful life and look forward to finding more pursuits to fully engage me, and to watch my grandson grow up. Hopefully he'll have as much enthusiasm and drive for the exciting journey that life is as I had.