James Kenneth “Jim” Donnelly was born August 31, 1954, to the late James Kenneth Donnelly and Opal Baxter Donnelly Davis in Bowling Green. Jim grew up mostly in Plumb Springs with his sisters, Rhonda Donnelly and Sharon Cardwell (Leonard), and brothers, David Donnelly and Chad Davis. Jim’s family included his wife, Annette Donnelly; and his children, Jay Donnelly, Justin Donnelly (Stephanie), Brian Donnelly (Paige), and stepson, Tyler Harlow. He had five grandchildren, who he called “little honeys”: Hunter, Blake, Aubrey, Emma, and Briley Donnelly.
Jim began his firefighting career with 14 dedicated years as a volunteer for the Richardsville Volunteer Fire Department. He retired as captain from Bowling Green City Fire Department in 2011 after 21 years of service. He was proud of his accomplishments at the fire department and loved that he made some very close friends there. Jim was elated when his son Justin became a Bowling Green Fire Department firefighter, following in Dad’s footsteps.
Jim was a self-taught mechanic who diagnosed many cars over the telephone for friends. When he needed a tool to fix a car and couldn’t buy what he needed, he would make it. He loved to drag race his 1968 Camaro and tinker with his 1955 Chevy, and he enjoyed going to car shows. Cars were his passion. Jim always laughed and said he “created monsters” when it came to his boys’ love for cars.
Jim instilled a love of hunting and fishing into his boys. He loved music and could name a song almost immediately after it would start and, often, the year it came out. People called him to “name that tune,” which made him laugh. Jim Donnelly had a gruff exterior, but behind that was a gentle, loving, huge-hearted man who loved his family and friends very much.
Jim was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in November 2016. He fought so bravely for 15 months, undergoing chemo and various procedures and never complaining. He was an avid supporter of MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, and regularly referred other patients to the hospital. He was so proud to help and watch the positive outcomes of others. Jim lost his battle with cancer in February 2018. We always called Jim our fearless leader, and it is still hard to believe that he is gone. We miss and remember him every single day, and we will forever be grateful that he touched each of our lives in a special way.