There was a time when Don McDonough knew just about everyone in City Hall, from the mayors to the folks who mopped the floors.
Whenever a young Inquirer reporter needed a source, or a tip, or an interview on deadline, the veteran reporter always had the answer, and his name was a key that unlocked any door.
"All you had to say was, 'Don McDonough sent me,' " former Inquirer City Hall Bureau Chief Tony Lame said of his old colleague.
Donald A. "Don" McDonough, 81, of Cherry Hill, who rose from copyboy to award-winning columnist and reporter at the newspaper, and later played significant roles for the city and worked in public relations, died Saturday of complications from cancer.
Born and raised in the city's Fairmount section, Mr. McDonough attended West Philadelphia High School and submitted articles that were published in the Bulletin's student column "Heigh-De-Ho."
As a professional journalist, Mr. McDonough eventually would meet many celebrities, from Robert F. Kennedy to Stevie Wonder. But he was still a teenager when he met Babe Ruth in Philadelphia. The retired slugger signed a baseball for McDonough and it became a prized possession and fodder for many stories.
In the early 1950s, Mr. McDonough was operating a newsstand in front of Linton's at 19th and Spring Garden Streets when he landed a job as a copyboy at the Inquirer. In the ensuing 18 years at the paper, he covered state, local, and national government. He served five terms as president of the Philadelphia Press Association.
Former Inquirer colleague Ken Shuttleworth said all the young reporters looked up to "Dandy" Don.
"He was the epitome of the big-city reporter. He knew everyone and he knew how to get information," said Shuttleworth, who worked at the Inquirer from 1969 to 1971. "He dressed well and he looked good. He knew how to work his way up."
Mr. McDonough's oldest child, Donna Gaffigan, said she never saw him in a T-shirt, even on weekends when he doted on her and her two younger sisters.
"He loved his girls," said Gaffigan, 55. "He liked taking us to Broadway shows. He always loved Frank Sinatra. Every Sunday morning my mother would cook up this big breakfast and we'd listen to Sid Mark's 'Sunday with Sinatra.' "
Under the Rizzo administration, Mr. McDonough was appointed deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Hospitals Authority and later deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Port Authority, editing a publication titled "Destination Philadelphia." He also served as information officer for Municipal Court.
Mr. McDonough was vice president of a large Philadelphia PR firm, then became the founding president of National Media Consultants Inc.
He was a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, the American offshoot of the London-based Sherlock Holmes Society; and a member for more than 50 years of the Philadelphia-based Holmes group Sons of the Copper Beeches.
"He was always very upbeat, a very positive person who rarely ever spoke ill of anyone," Gaffigan said.
Mr. McDonough's wife, the former Concetta Sassany, died in 2015.
Besides his daughter, he is survived by two other daughters, Margot Schadt and Leslie Visco, and eight grandchildren.
A visitation will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, followed by funeral Mass at 11 a.m. at St. Simon Stock Parish Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 178 W. White Horse Pike, Berlin, N.J. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society, 1851 Old Cuthbert Rd., Cherry Hill, NJ.