“I live nearby and came to pay my respects,” said George Faber, 42. “Not many folks had the magnetism Artie had; I can count them on one hand. He just made you want to be around him, even when he’s gone.”
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“All of Baltimore and beyond feel they know Artie and have been touched by his presence,” Ehrmann said. “Weave a tapestry of all that is good in Maryland over the past six decades and you’ll see Art’s life woven throughout that tapestry.”
Donovan “thought all the world was a party; he never met a stranger,” Ehrmann said. “Laughter was his medicine and it was most potent when he was laughing at himself.”
Though born in the Bronx, Donovan settled in Baltimore during his playing days, when he helped the Colts win National Football League championships in 1958 and 1959. Upon retirement, he became a go-to guest on the national talk show circuit and a celebrity with the publication of his autobiography, ‘Fatso.”
“He saw himself as part of a team that had a unique, almost Rockwellian bond with us — an enduring part of a team that never really left this town,” Bishop Denis Madden said in his homily.
Afterward, in a private ceremony, Donovan was buried at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, close by the grave of teammate John Unitas, in a temporary crypt awaiting the construction of a family mausoleum.
Teammates said Donovan wore the mantle of celebrity with characteristic humility.
“He was Mr. Colt, like Brooks Robinson was Mr. Oriole,” safety Andy Nelson said. “He’s up there (in heaven) right now, holding court.”
“No, Artie is taking over,” Hall of Fame defensive end Gino Marchetti said.
Running back Dick Bielski called Donovan “a 24-carat human being, no matter how famous he was,” and recounted his story-telling talents.
“In the 1960s, Art spoke at a communion breakfast, at a Catholic church in Loch Raven, where every story had a ‘hell’ or a ‘damn’ in it,” Bielski said. “Everyone laughed like crazy. If anyone else had done that, we’d have been run out of town.”
Donovan’s levity helped instill “a tremendous chemistry” in those champion Colt teams, Raymond Berry said.
“His humor and leadership brought a great balance to the club,” said Berry, a Hall of Fame receiver. “Yes, he was full of laughs and one of the great characters of all time. But he was also a great competitior and all-business on game day.”
Four times All-NFL, Donovan played in five straight Pro Bowl games in the 1950s. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968, the first Colts player to be inducted.
Lenny Moore, the Hall of Fame running back, recalled him as “not only a team man but a family man” who served as a pallbearer at the funerals of both Moore’s first wife and his son.
“He was there when you needed him, on the field or off,” Moore said.
Some of the Colts attending, including Stan White, Lydell Mitchell, Don McCauley and Roy Hilton, played after Donovan retired. But that didn’t lessen their admiration.