Hotelier left his mark on island hospitality industry


POSTED: Monday, March 15, 2010

Hotelier Howard Charles Donnelly had a wonderful rapport with both the hotel guests and his staff, according to family members and friends.

Employees called him “;Father Donnelly,”; said his daughter, Dawn Siemon. “;He treated his employees as well as his guests with grace and dignity, knew their names and cared about their families' lives.”;

Donnelly, described by loved ones as a “;consummate hotel man and host extraordinaire,”; died Tuesday in Edina, Minn. He was 90 years old.

Donnelly was born in New York City and graduated from Cornell University in hotel management. He moved to Hawaii in 1956 to manage what was then the Matson Moana-Surfrider Hotel and became the general manager of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel three years later.


Donnelly was instrumental in bringing fellow Cornell graduate Chris Hemmeter to Hawaii, becoming his mentor in the hotel industry, friends and family said.

Donnelly became executive vice president and general manager of the Ilikai Hotel in 1963. While at the Ilikai, he established a restaurant company called International Innkeepers Inc., opening restaurants that included the Top of the “;I”; restaurant.

In the latter part of his career, Donnelly was a consultant, helping to open several hotels including the Ala Moana Hotel and the Grand Hyatt in Kauai.

He was active in the community as a Rotarian and member of the Outrigger Canoe Club and Waialae Country Club. He also served as president of the Hawaii Hotel Association in 1969.

“;He was a true gentleman and outstanding hotelier,”; said John Brogan, another friend.

Donnelly is survived by another daughter, Kaarin Hughes; six grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. Family members will hold a private service in Minnesota.

Some of his ashes along with ashes of his wife, Tia, will be scattered in waters off of Waikiki.