Former ADI photographer did life well

“Patience, passion and dedication comes easily only when you love what you do.” – Author unknown

I was a young man, a kid really, when I started my journalism career at the then Ashland Daily Independent in 1975.

My world was surrounded by some great journalists – Mike Reliford, Stan Champer, George Wolfford and Paul Sierer come immediately to mind. They were in their 30s and 40s and were ready to take on the world. I was 17 and just learning.

We had two photographers during those early days and one was Jim Donithan, a veteran who witnessed Ashland through the lens of his camera like few others for at least years before I came along. Donithan, who passed away last week at 91, and the late Ben McCullough, were the pioneers of the photography department at the ADI. They brought the newspaper’s pages to life, giving our readers a visual image to go with the news and sports stories.

By the time I came around in the mid-1970s as a baby sportswriter, Donithan had taken a lifetime of photos. He snapped news and sports photos, fires and other tragedies, and wins and losses on the sports field. He was there to give the readers of the ADI the rest of the story in photographic form. Jim took pride in his photography and was around for some terrific and some horrific events. He was there when dignitary arrived like President Nixon, he was there for economic news at Armco and Ashland Oil, and he was there for some great basketball and football teams playing for glory.

He was there when the great Mickey Mantle paid us a visit and took memorable photographs when Ashland’s 1975 JAWS football team boarded a bus to go play for the state championship. He had an eye for what people wanted to see.

In those days, the police department didn’t have their own camera and they utilized the ADI photographers for grizzly crash and crime scene photos that never made the newspaper. Many of them involved images that had to be difficult to see, let alone photograph, but it was part of the job in those days.

He taught me a lot about how the dark room worked. The dark room was where the magic happened for photographers as film became photos before your very eyes in a room that was infrared. It’s a lost art that’s no longer necessary but an art form just the same.

“Flashbulb,” as some called him, was good at what he did and his demeanor with me was almost grandfatherly. I saw him get upset a few times – and he could throw a fit – but I can’t remember him ever being mad at me. Most of the time when he saw me at a game, he’d twist his ear and stick out his tongue. He could be a prankster.

Jim also loved to bowl, if I’m remembering correctly, and he was good at that as well.

He was good at whatever he did and that included being a husband to Bobbie, father and grandfather. He will be missed by so many.

2 thoughts on “Former ADI photographer did life well

  1. Thanks for this write up for my uncle, Jim Donithan. Memories of Jim were mostly as the official Pergrem family photographer at Armco Park or at my grandparents’ tiny Turner St home. The most fun times seeing him were when my Lafayette team met Ashland HS and my sister or I were cheering. He would smile that huge smile and laugh and we would run to have him pick us up and swing us around. What a guy! Pat Pergrem Thompson (daughter of Buck Pergrem).


  2. Wonderful article. Jim was my uncle too and he was a great one, a great man. It is so good to see how others felt
    about him. Like Pat said, he always had time for his nieces and nephews, like we were his only ones! Thank you.
    Cheri Perkins
    (daughter of Jeanne Pergrem Ward and William Nolan Ward)


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