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Published: Friday, 5/14/2004

Physician enjoyed caring for patients

Dr. Charles Donatelli, known to many of his family practice patients as Dr. D, died Monday in the North Toledo home of his longtime companion.

He was 89 and was diagnosed with prostate cancer last month but had been in declining health for four years, said Roberta Carol Miller, who had been his companion for 32 years.

Dr. Donatelli came to Toledo from the University at Buffalo Medical School for an internship at the Riverside Hospital and returned to the area after World War II. He lived in the Old West End for 57 years.

He joined the staff of Mercy Hospital, where he remained for 50 years and made what he said were 20,000 house calls. Because he delivered babies for years, he seemed to always be on call. He had an office at Erie and Ash streets in North Toledo and later on East Broadway.

"My dad really liked people and teaching people and touching people's lives individually," his daughter, Patricia Zielinski, said.

Becoming a doctor was "something he wanted to do all his life" he told Ms. Miller.

He had quit surgery and delivering babies in the 1980s and continued with a limited practice until about 10 years ago.

For some longtime friends, he traded medical care for services such as plumbing. He owned several rental houses, and he did most of the work on them.

Golfing provided much of his exercise; he played almost every day for years, and the area's golf courses and parks were among Toledo's attributes that he loved most, Ms. Miller said.

He won the Ohio State Medical Golfers Association tournament in 1949 and 1953 and the American Medical Association golf championship near Chicago in 1952. By that time he had won the Toledo Medical Association golf title five times.

When it came to nutrition, however, Dr. Donatelli, an accomplished Italian cook who loved sweets, did not practice what he preached.

"His idea of nutrition was eating dessert first and saving his salad in case he had any room for it," Ms. Miller said.

Dr. Donatelli grew up in the Rochester and Buffalo areas. His mother died when he was 2, and aunts took care of him until he was 9 when his father, a tailor, remarried. He started first grade at age 4 and finished medical school when he was 23.

He volunteered for the Army in 1942 and became a captain with the medical corps in Europe.

He played piano, guitar, banjo, and mandolin, which he played in a Cardinal Stritch High School performance of Fiddler on the Roof in the 1980s.

Surviving are his daughters, Concetta Pierce and Patricia Zielinski, and sister, Loretta Dell.

Services will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow in the Walter Funeral Home, where the body will be after 2 p.m. today.

The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor's choice.



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