REGINA M. Donnelly, a kindhearted and caring woman who delighted in lavishing gifts upon her scores of nieces and nephews, died Sunday of natural causes. The Port Richmond native was 88.
"She was everybody's Aunt Jeannie, even if you weren't related by blood or marriage," said a niece, Mary Lee Dougherty. "Aunt Jeannie made everybody she liked a niece or nephew."
And she liked most everybody she met. "A nice guy was called an 'Ace.' A nice gal was called a 'Doll.' She liked her Aces to be sharp dressers, and her Dolls smartly attired," said Dougherty.
Donnelly reveled in her Irish heritage and the joys of neighborhood life in the city's river wards. "Port Richmond is the garden spot of Philadelphia," she would tell her nieces and nephews.
Shibe Park during the war years was more than a place for Connie Mack's A's to play baseball, according to Aunt Jeannie.
"The Andrews Sisters sang their 'Buy a Bond Today' song there during war-bond rallies. Bob Hope cracked insulting jokes in Shibe Park about Hitler and Tojo to raise our morale."
She extolled the virtues of Johnny Dog Fat, a Depression-era concoction of soap scraps and cleansers used to wash clothes when there was no money for store-bought products.
If a niece or nephew turned up his or her nose at the idea of eating the end crust from a loaf of Bond bread, Aunt Jeannie got on the case.
"During the Depression, kids fought over the crust," she claimed. "We called it the heel of the bread."
The youngest of Michael and Ann Hughes Donnelly's 10 children, she was a lifelong member of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Port Richmond.
"Her generosity was legend," said another niece, Mary McFarland. "Her generosity was legend. If you saw, say, a sweater in a window at a K&A shop under the elevated train tracks that your parents could never afford, a few weeks later Aunt Jeannie gave it to you in a gift box."
Niece Anne Gibson recalled Friday-night treats after Aunt Jeannie picked up her pay packet from Hardesty Industries, a Port Richmond rendering plant where she worked for decades as a lab technician.
"We rode the Route 60 trolley car to the Sun Ray drugstore at K&A where Aunt Jeannie bought us ice-cream sodas," said Gibson. "She let us sit at the counter instead of in a booth. It made a little girl like me feel all grown up."
Parties always ranked No. 1 with Aunt Jeannie. She liked to ice a drink, crack a joke, have a smoke - unfiltered Chesterfields or Pall Malls.
Besides her family, her great loves in life were stray cats, the Flyers, Roman Catholic rosary beads, collecting dolls and knickknacks, and Irish music.
Services: Funeral Mass 10 a.m. Saturday at Nativity BVM Church, Allegheny Avenue at Belgrade Street.
Friends may call at 8 a.m. at the Reilly Funeral Home, 2632 E. Allegheny Ave. Burial will be in Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem.
Donations may be made to the Immaculate Mary Home, 2990 Holme Ave., Philadelphia 19136.