Barbara Donovan passed away on Sunday, Dec 20, 2020, at home in Vermont after a long fight with breast cancer.
She was born in Buffalo, N.Y., on Dec. 2, 1953, to James and Genevieve (Gerry) Carr Donovan. She attended the Infant of Prague grammar school and graduated high school from Sacred Heart Academy in Buffalo. Barb went to the State University of New York at Geneseo, graduating with a degree in geography.
In 1976, following graduation, she was one of the first women in the United States to get her commercial driver’s license, driving for North American Van Lines for two years. After driving all over the United States, she settled in Ellsworth.
While teaching geography at then Beal’s College in Bangor she applied for and got the position of manager of transportation at Washington Hancock Community Agency (WHCA) in Milbridge. Here she ignited a passion for transit. She successfully developed a fixed route and a demand response system with a fleet of small busses, vans and volunteers taking people to doctor appointments over an area as large as Connecticut. She was a key member of the newly formed Maine Transit Association, working with her counterparts across the state to bring attention to the challenges of providing adequate service to the residents in rural Maine.
With 18 years’ experience, she moved on to the state of Maine’s Transportation Office of Passenger Transit. There her focus on details and procedures contributed to a successful statewide system of busses, ferries and eventually trains. Her years at WHCA made her a most valued voice at the state level, with her understanding of the barriers and opportunities for regional transportation agencies attempting to work smarter, not harder. She was truly happy supporting the use of transit in the state, coordinating with her New England public transit associates, working with the federal agencies, and was recognized time and again by these groups for her contributions. As Barb said, “I love being a bureaucrat.”
After 11 years with Maine DOT, she heard about the great little state of Vermont and its commitment to public transit, and she saw an opportunity to be appreciated doing something she loved. She showed up three months before Hurricane Irene, but she left lasting positive effects. In 10 years, she helped build and develop a well-documented system of public and private transportation with strong fiscal responsibility, a recognition of the difficulties of rural transit providers, great federal coordination and retired with a strong team in place to continue the good work. She continued her passion as a board member representing New England for the Community Transportation Association of America, the national professional entity formed to advance policies and resources for small urban and rural public transportation operators. Her focus on that board remained being a tireless advocate for rural transportation, and the vital role of mobility in the health of all communities.
She is survived and greatly missed by her daughter, Kelly Garver (husband Jason and son Robbie Jones); her partner of 38 years, Paul Rogers; her sisters, Peggy Bergler (Ron), Pat Chipman, Joanne Donovan (Hal Gillespie), Judy Blair (Jim), Beth Donovan, Maureen Donovan-Dobiesz (Norm), Dianne Donovan, and brother James John Donovan (Colleen) and 17 dearly loved nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her mother and father and sister Mary.
A public celebration her life is not possible at this time but is being planned for Buffalo and Barre late this summer. Contributions can be made in memory of Barb to Child Fund International or the Community Action Program in your area.
Arrangements were by Hooker Whitcomb Funeral Home, 7 Academy St., Barre.