was the sixth son and ninth child of James J. Tinneny and
Gertrude Ann Spence. He was born at Roxborough Memorial
Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 31, 1928. His
godparents were his father's first cousin, Francis Sickinger and
his father's sister Margaret Tinneny McKenna.
Although his birth was registered as Donald Francis, when his
parents went to have him baptized the priest said that there was
no saint named Donald and he baptized him Francis Donald.
However, throughout his life he used Donald.
As a young child, Donald remembered his godmother giving him
$5.00 on his birthdays and for the holidays. This was a
significant amount of money at the time. If they received
anything from their godparents, the other children would
normally receive a gift of 25 or 50 cents on these occasions.
Donald learned to speak at an uncommonly early age. This
combined with the fashion of the day resulted in some surprised
young children, Donald and his brothers Jim and Tom spent a good
deal of time in the care of his mother’s aunt Margaret “Manny”
Spence Weir who lived on Hermitage Street in Manayunk. Her
husband John was a railroad detective. When he was 2 or 3 years
old Manny would dress Donald up and take him on walks through
the neighborhood in a baby carriage. In those days boys and
girls alike had long hair and wore dresses. Strangers would
walkup to Manny, look at Donald in the baby carriage, and make
comments such as “isn't she a pretty little girl.” Donald, who
appeared too young to speak, would pipe up "I'm a boy not a
girl" to their great surprise and amusement.
As a young child Donald's mother for the most part let him
select his own cloths. She would take him down town to one of
the big department stores in Center City Philadelphia to shop
for clothing. Since he was so young the salesman would normally
approach Donald and his mother and ask her if he could help her
select Donald's clothing. She would respond by saying that he
picked out his own clothing.
Donald & his mother.
During that period Donald "hated" short sleeve shirts. He
thought, "they were for girls." One time his mother bought him
a short sleeve shirt. He argued with her each time she tried to
dress him in it. One day she was dressing him on the second
floor of the house. He was loudly resisting wearing that shirt
and she was loudly insisting that he was going to wear it that
day. Downstairs his father Jim listened to the ruckus as long
as he could. He went upstairs to the bedroom where the debate
was going on, told Gert to give him the shirt and when she did
he tore it into shreds. He then said, "I'll never hear anything
about this again" and he didn't. The only person who could get
Donald to wear just about anything was Manny Weir. Donald said,
although he wouldn't have done it for anyone else, he even wore
a beret when Manny would ask him to wear it.
When Donald was born the family lived at 307 Hermitage Street in
Philadelphia. He is listed there as a I year old on the 1930
census. They subsequently lived in another house on that street
then moved to houses on Wendover and Gerhart Streets then to
2129 Pechin Street where Donald lived until he was 18 years
Growing up he wasn't heavily involved in sports, which was a
source of contention between him and his father. He did play
some football and baseball in the neighborhood.
When he was 18 years old the family fell on hard times and had
to leave their house on Pechin Street. His brother Joe arranged
for them to move to 315 Pensdale Street, which was just around
the corner. In addition to his parents and himself his brothers
Joe and Tom and his sister Clare were living at home at the
time. Eventually Tom, his wife Marie and their young family
remained in that house where they raised their family. Don's
father James J. Tinneny Sr. passed away there on December 8,
1949. He had been cared for in his final days by Tom and his
Donald was too young to serve in the military in the 1930s and
40s like his brothers Jack, Joe, Bruce and Tom did. However,
October 31, 1946 he registered for the military draft as he was
required to do when he became 18 years of age.
Donald's Draft Registration Card October 31, 1946
As the Korean conflict escalated in the early 1950s he was
notified to report to take a pre enlistment physical for
military service. Following the physical he was notified by
mail that he had been rejected for service due to a heart
murmur. His brother Bruce also had a heart murmur and his
brother Joe had an enlarged heart.
Joe, Don and their mother left the house on Pensdale Street they
moved to an upstairs apartment at 4132 Pechin Street across from
their former home. Eventually their mother died in 1953 and Joe
married and moved to his own home in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania
just outside Philadelphia. After living alone for several
years, Don moved in with Joe and his wife Betty where he lived
for the next four years.
had become very close to his brother Joe after Joe returned home
from World War II. They liked going to the seashore in New
Jersey. Each summer the two bachelor brothers found themselves
going to the shore together each weekend and enjoying the sun,
beach and very active social lives there.
Donald, photo courtesy of Bridget Tinneny.
Although his family and friends figured him to be a confirmed
bachelor, in the late 1960s Donald met Elizabeth G. "Betty"
Bailer who was a friend of his niece Mary Lee Haughey. After
dating for some time the couple was married on September 27,
1969 at Saint Lawrence Catholic Church in Upper Darby,
Pennsylvania. The sponsors for their wedding were Donald's
friend, John Budzik and the bride’s twin sister Alice.
Don and Betty’s wedding photo, courtesy of Bridget Tinneny.
Don began working at the end of the summer of 1947 after
graduating that June. He got a job as a stock-boy with Sears and
Roebuck Company, which was located on Roosevelt Boulevard in the
Northeast section of Philadelphia. He worked there for three or
four months then was laid off.
His brother Bruce who was working at the Asher Candy Factory in
Philadelphia got him a job there. Bruce's job was quite easy
and consisted of rolling trays of candy to the girls who then
covered the candy with chocolate. Donald on the other hand was
not so lucky. Although he was short and slim he was assigned
the job of lifting 50-pound sacks of sugar, opening them and
dumping them into huge mixers. That was very tough for him to
do since he could barely see over the top of the sacks of
sugar. After a couple of weeks he decided to separate the sugar
into to 25-pound portions then load it into the mixers. The
adjustment made the job easier but upset his boss at first. The
boss, who was about 6 feet 4 inches tall, just couldn't seem to
understand that Donald would have difficulty handling the sacks
Throughout the two months that he worked for Asher Candy he
complained about the job at home. Finally, one day his mother
told him to quit. He said that he couldn't because he was
worried about what his father would say. His mother said not to
worry about his father and insisted that he quit which he did.
After a couple of months he landed a good job with the Ocean
City Fishing Reel Company. Ocean City probably made the best
quality salt-water fishing reels in the United States. He
started as a stockman and over the course of the next 10 years
he advanced to the position of reel inspector.
He next worked for the Austin Supply Company again starting out
as a stockman. In the two years he worked there (1955-57) he
rose to the position of purchasing agent.
1957, Donald was hired as a purchasing agent
by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which was later known as the Penn
Central then as Conrail. In his early years with them he
experienced many layoffs. In 1961 he was well established on
the job but a nation wide coal or steel strike, which lasted a
long time, resulted in him being laid off. His brother Joe got
him a job on a construction crew, which was building the
Schuylkill Expressway, Interstate 76, in the area of
Philadelphia. After about a year he was called back to his job
with the railroad. He was very happy and described the job on
the road construction crew as the toughest job that he ever
had. Donald worked as a purchasing agent with the railroad for
33 years. During that time he handled accounts nationwide. He
retired from there in 1992.
It was while working for the railroad that Donald happened upon
the phone number of a Tinneny who lived in New York. He made a
practice of looking up the family name in the various phonebooks
that he handled as he worked his accounts across the country.
One day at work he had the occasion to use the telephone
directory for one of the New York boroughs and to his great
surprise found a listing for a Tinneny. Although when he
recounted what happened he wasn't sure but he thought the
Tinneny’s first name was Robert. He called the number listed
and reached this newfound Tinneny on the phone. He found him to
be very suspicious and not very talkative. Donald assured him
that he didn't want anything from him but just wanted to give
him a call since the name was so uncommon and he had never been
able to find a Tinneny in the directories that weren't related.
That was the extent of the conversation and there was no attempt
by either of them to explore a family connection.
That night Donald told his brother Joe about the incident and
Joe attempted to contact the New York Tinneny the next day. To
his surprise the phone had been disconnected and there was no
further contact. In all probability Donald had reached one of
the descendants of Philip Tinneny who had settled in New York
after immigrating from County Leitrem, Ireland in 1927.
Philip’s line of the family had moved from Belturbet in county
Cavan to county Leitrem in the 1800s. Prior to Belturbert they
were from Goladuff. It’s a shame that Joe and Donald didn't
have the opportunity to explore the relationship with this
cousin and open the door to establish a connection with the New
York branch of the family. Years later, connections were made by
Rich Tinneny with the Lietrem branch of the family in county
Meath, Ireland, New York, England and Nova Scotia.
About 1977 Donald and Betty bought a home at 326 Kingsley Street
in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia where they raised
their children Elizabeth, Charity, Bridget and Donald.
Following his retirement from the railroad in 1992 Don worked
for 10 years as a security guard at Penn Charter School in
Philadelphia from which he retired in May or June of 2005.
The day following his retirement he had respiratory problems.
He was taken to the
University of Pennsylvania hospital with what was preliminarily
thought to be pneumonia. However, that was not the case and
after testing he was found to have advance stage 4 lung cancer.
It had metastasized to the point of being untreatable. Over the
course of the next several months he was in and out of the
Near the end he remained at home and his daughter Charity and
her husband Eric, a physician, came to Philadelphia to monitor
and assist him. As the end approached, Eric gathered the family.
The night before he passed away, in a conversation with Charity,
he said “I won’t be here this time tomorrow.” The next evening,
July 23, 2005, at 6:15 p.m. he passed away with his entire
family around him. Donald was the last of his generation, the
children of James J. Tinneny and Gertrude Ann Spence.
DONALD F. TINNENY, July 23, 2005 of Rox., age 76; devoted
husband of Betty (nee Bailer), beloved father of Elizabeth
Griffith (Richard), Charity Peck, (Eric), Bridget Tinneny and
Donald Tinneny (April), grandfather of Billy, Izabella, Olivia,
Bailer, Sadie, Egan, Cade and Emma. Also survived by extended
family Kevin, Kara, Brian, Michael Flynn, George, Mara and
Dawnie. Relatives and friends are invited to Viewing Thursday
eve 7-9 P.M. and Friday 9 A.M at THE KOLLER FUNERAL HOME, 6835
Ridge Ave. (cor. of Livezey) Funeral Mass Friday 10 A.M. St.
John the Baptist Church. Int. Whitemarsh Mem. Park. Donations in
his memory to St. John the Baptist Church, 119 Rector St.,
Philadelphia, PA 19127.
Published on Philly.com from July 25 to July 27, 2005.
Donald’s grave marker at Whitemarsh Memorial Park, Ambler,
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Photo by Lisa Phillips, Find A