Lives Remembered

Doris Russo: Forward-thinking American who made Donegal her home

Doris Russo was widely loved in her adopted home of Clonmany, Co Donegal

THE people of Ireland owe a debt of gratitude to American Doris Russo for her work in bringing one of Donegal’s most beautiful natural features to wider attention.

Each year thousands of people visit the Glenevin Waterfall in Clonmany, rated by global travel website TripAdvisor as the top attraction in Inishowen.

However, if it hadn’t been for Doris’s work and vision it would have remained a hidden treasure, seen only by the few.

It was Doris who set about developing access to the waterfall after moving to Clonmany in 1994.

It was therefore hugely poignant that she should die just days before much of her work was destroyed in last month’s serious flooding in the north-west.

Doris was born in Rockford, Illinois but moved to New Jersey with her late husband Tony where they ran several businesses, including a diner, an auction firm and a car dealership.

On a tour of Inishowen with her sister in 1993, shortly after her husband’s death, Doris saw the 225-year-old Glen House in Clonmany and immediately fell in love with it.

When it came on the market the following year, she purchased it and moved lock, stock and barrel to Donegal where she ran the house as a thriving B&B.

She also set about developing access and visitor facilities for the beautiful, isolated Glenevin Waterfall.

Sonia McGonigle, current owner of the Glen House and close friend of Doris, said she took great pride in her work.

"She wanted to do something for the local area and in developing the waterfall she saw it as a way of providing work for local men and then as a way of the community having something special. She was very proud of it."

Doris sold the house in 2004 but remained in Clonmany where she continued to give the new owners the benefit of her experience.

“She was always coming in with ideas; she was a great reader. She would say they’re doing that in Kerry or Cork or Dublin and there’s no reason why we can’t do it here," Mrs McGonigle said.

“I remember she had an idea for a strawberry fair in June and I thought okay, I’ll organise it just to keep Doris happy.

"But it took off and we had hundreds, one year more than a thousand, through the door with loads of artists and we raised more than €2,000 for the waterfall."

The Donegal businesswoman said Doris was a forward thinker who, once she got an idea, was determined to see it through.

“Doris was truly remarkable and she was very loved, among her friends and here in Clonmany for everything she did for the area. That’s why we had a special day for Doris in June.”

Doris’s Requiem Mass was held in Clonmany on August 21.

The community intends planting a tree in her honour at her beloved Glenevin Waterfall as soon as all flood repair works are completed.

Seamus McKinney

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Lives Remembered