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Davis A. Donnelly

Davis A. Donnelly

September 15, 2020

Davis A Donnelly, 93, of Eau Claire, WI, died peacefully Tuesday, September 15, 2020, at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital.

Davis was born on March 9, 1927, in Augusta, WI to Reverend William Donnelly and his wife Margret. He grew up during the Great Depression and was the youngest son of six children. In 1944 at age 17, he got his Dad’s permission to join the Navy. After several months of training at Great Lakes Naval Air Station, he was assigned to a destroyer escort fleet, taking supply convoys across the North Atlantic to Europe. They regularly engaged in combat by dropping depth charges on German submarines. By the end of 1944 when the war with Germany ended, his ship was immediately deployed to the Pacific theater, where the war on Japan was still going on. They escorted convoys, did search and rescue (for the USS Indianapolis) and assisted with the surrender of Japan’s navy when the war was over. In the fall of 1945, he returned home and graduated from High School in 1947.

In the following years, he spent two summers in Alaska as a salmon fisherman. He also worked as a machinist and salesman. He briefly re-enlisted in the Navy in 1950 and trained on a mine sweeper for several months before he was released on a medical discharge. After returning home he married his wife Marilyn Ashley in 1952. He decided to take advantage of the benefits afforded to him by the G.I. Bill and went to both college (graduated in 1954 from the Eau Claire State College, now UW Eau Claire) and law school (graduated in 1957 from UW Madison). While he was attending law school in 1956, he ran for the State Senate and won. He served two terms for the 28th district, serving Eau Claire and Chippewa Counties. He also practiced law in Eau Claire and ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the State Supreme Court.

Davis also had an entrepreneurial side to him. In the early 1960’s he started the Roman Inn Italian restaurant on the corner of Grand and Second Avenue in Eau Claire. Using the equipment in the restaurant, he started making up pizzas and selling them to the local grocery stores. He named it Roma Pizza. The stores started selling them and they couldn’t keep up with the demand. In 1965 he bought an old creamery in Black River Falls, WI and started making the pizzas there. He developed a route system to deliver the pizzas to the grocery stores and eventually sold Roma Pizza throughout the upper Midwest. In 1967 he incorporated the business under the name of Dadco Food Products, Inc., with corporate offices in Eau Claire at 2543 Clairemont Ave. In the 1970’s he sold the Roman Inn Italian Restaurant. At Dadco’s prime in 1997, they had about $40 million in annual sales and employed approximately 200 people. In 2000, Dadco’s route system and trademarks were sold to Bernatello’s Pizza, Inc. of Maple Lake, MN. It’s patent’s and pizza dough technology, which Davis had developed were sold to Schwans. Roma Frozen pizza is still sold in grocery and convenience store throughout the upper Midwest after 55 years!

Davis had many other business ventures that he tried during his long career! He finally retired at age 90 and lived independently until his death.

Davis is survived by a sister, Margret (Norman) Benson, Fairchild, WI; his sons and daughter, Mark (Cindy) Donnelly, Eau Claire, Todd (Kathi) Donnelly, Genoa, IL, and Lisa (Jerry) Hoch, Rockwood, TN; grandchildren, Rebekah (Alex) Martinez, Appleton, WI., Andrew Donnelly and Sujay Donnelly, Eau Claire, Danielle (Devon) Wilcox, Courtland, IL., Dylan and Tyler Donnelly of Genoa, IL., and Samantha and Cassie Hoch, Rockwood, TN.

He was preceded in death by his parents, William and Margret Donnelly; brothers, Gordon, Edward, Arthur; and sister, Ruth (John) Bartos.

He was a great husband to his wife Marilyn of 65 years, the father of three children and eight grandchildren, and member of his church for over 60 years. Davis made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior when he was 12 years old and was baptized by his Father. He always went out of his way to help and encourage others, especially those that were struggling.  He will be missed dearly!

A Memorial Service will be held at Renew Church, 416 Niagara Street, Eau Claire, WI. on Saturday, October. 10, 2020, at 11AM with visitation an hour before the service. Burial will be 2PM at the East Lawn Cemetery in Augusta, WI.


10-11 a.m. at Renew Church, 416 Niagara Street, Eau Claire, WI. on Saturday, October. 10, 2020.


11 a.m. at Renew Church, 416 Niagara Street, Eau Claire, WI. on Saturday, October. 10, 2020.

Florist Information

All flowers should be delivered to the church by 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct 10.


  • Beth Stanley Wow what an encouragement to my husband, Dan Stanley when he started n Pastored the First Baptist Church in Durand throughout the ‘80’s. Plus our family enjoyed many pizzas w/ all the fixings he’d leave on our back porch freezer. What a surprise when we got home several times. Now he and my Dan are chatting in heaven endlessly. Amen.

    October 10 at 3:43pm

  • Beccy Farrell Love to you all!! Sorry I can't travel at this time to be with you. God bless you and comfort you in your grief.

    October 6 at 12:04pm

  • Jerry Mosenson Our deepest sympathy goes out to the Donnelly Family for their recent loss. May his memory last forever in your hearts and may Davis Rest In Peace...

    October 5 at 10:18pm

  • State Senator Fred A Risser I served with Davis in the Wisconsin State Senate, and remember him well. We attended several State Senate reunions together at the Capitol.

    Davis was always one of the friendliest legislators I ever had the pleasure of serving with. He approached legislative matters in a bi-partisan way. I am glad to have known him.

    Sen. Fred A Risser

    October 2 at 1:34PM

  • Joel Desprez Please accept my condolences.

    October 2 at 8:01AM

  • Amy and Matt Fish What a beautiful obituary honoring such a wonderful man. We are sorry to hear of your loss. It is hard to lose a parent at any age. May the peace of God be with you through these times. Sending our love.

    October 2 at 6:38AM

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