Carol Seach Donovan, at 91; ran day care, was host of children's radio show

Carol Seach Donovan also co-hosted a radio show on WJDA in Quincy with her husband, William. He died in 2002. Carol Seach Donovan also co-hosted a radio show on WJDA in Quincy with her husband, William. He died in 2002.
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Emma Stickgold
Globe Correspondent / June 15, 2008

In "The Carol Donovan Children's Hour" radio show in the late 1940s and 1950s, Carol Seach Donovan spun elaborate tales with imaginative characters from the comfort of her dining room table in Weymouth. Broadcasting on WJDA in Quincy, she spoke slowly and dramatically into a wooden microphone that carried her live into South Shore homes.

Mrs. Donovan, who also ran a day-care center out of her home, died May 27 at the Doolittle Home retirement facility in Foxborough from complications of a minor stroke. She was 91.

Even in high school, she had a knack for writing creative stories, and the characters she cooked up were a big hit among family and friends - especially one by the name of Virgil, a boy who encountered magical things such as talking vegetables. So when WJDA made its debut in 1947, she and her husband, William, took them to a bigger audience, she recalled in an interview that aired as part of the station's 40th anniversary celebration.

"I was all excited like the rest of the South Shore about having our own radio station, and Bill said 'Why don't you call up and see if they'd be interested in your Virgil stories?' - not thinking of going on the air, thinking of writing for the radio station," she said, according to a transcript of the interview provided by her family.

She called the station and was invited to drop by the offices. She was told she had an ideal radio voice, auditioned on the spot, and was told to start within a few days.

"Of course, radio was the big thing then, so to have our own radio station on the South Shore was a real plus," she said.

The weekday morning show was initially with her husband and was titled "Breakfast With Carol and Bill," and later became "Over the Coffee Cups With Carol and Bill," and featured impromptu interviews, jokes, scenes, and storytelling.

With "Carol Donovan's Children's Hour," she was targeting what was then a relatively new audience for radio. Her family said she approached the challenge with ease.

"She talked to the microphone as though she were talking to kids in the room," said her son Thomas, from Stockton, Calif. "It was like a two-sided conversation with only one party talking."

To engage the young listeners, she wrote short scenes that she would perform, patiently answered questions sent by mail, and offered stream-of-consciousness descriptions of family goings-on.

Mrs. Donovan and her husband met as students at Weymouth High School.

"According to my mother, she saw him for the first time and said, 'That's him,' " Thomas said.

In the 1950s, she started the small day-care program. She started it, family said, because she could not find a place she liked for her own children. Relatives helped make easels for arts-and-crafts exercises.

"She was just very creative, and it was a great way to grow up, because she brought that same creativity, enthusiasm, and zest to her parenting that she brought to the radio show," her son said.

She later became a secretary at several area companies, ultimately becoming executive secretary to the president of Stetson Shoe Co. She held that post for nearly a quarter century.

"She was very outgoing - she had all the qualities of a salesperson, and yet wasn't a salesperson," her son Stephen of Duxbury said. "She remembered names, dates, family members - once it got in there, it didn't get out."

In her Weymouth garden, "She was an absolutely workhorse," Thomas said. "She was never happier than when she was dripping in sweat, on her hands and knees, with a big pile of weeds off to the side."

The couple moved to the Doolittle Home. Her husband died in 2002.

In addition to her two sons, Mrs. Donovan leaves another son, William of Glendale; six grandsons; two granddaughters; and five great-grandchildren.

A service is being planned for late summer.

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