Community remembers Donnie

Tayler Thompson

Herald Staff Writer

Donovan (Donnie) Justice, who gained fame for rescuing puppies that were thrown off of the bridge he was residing under at the time, died June 2. 

In an interview following the rescue, Donnie said, “Everyone has a purpose in this world.” Many would agree that he fulfilled his purpose when he cared for animals. He also said, “My heart feels good because I know I did a good thing.”

Donnie was homeless for several years, most of them spent under the bridge along the Tuscarawas river. Close friend Bill Hodgkinson (Hodge) says he had quite the set up with shelving and carpet under the bridge. Hodge had a large impact on Donnie’s life, from helping him get government assistance to taking his beloved dog, Sasha to the vet. Donnie was often seen riding his bike with Sasha in tow or walking with her around town.

After Donnie appeared on the news for his heroic rescue, Cleveland TV personality Dick Goddard was so moved by his story that he offered to pay for an apartment through the winter months so that he and Sasha had a warm place to stay. Goddard and Donnie became friends, Donnie and Sasha even rode with him in the Woollybear Parade. 

Donnie was truly a lover of animals and the outdoors. 

His niece, Tracy Sims said, “He loved to walk everywhere. He has walked to North Carolina and back quite a few times. He enjoyed the outdoors and that’s the way he chose to live.” She also said that after Sasha passed away, he took in another dog who he called Young Man. He took him everywhere with him until he got too sick from cancer. When Donnie moved into ManorCare, where his mother Opal Ellis and sister Margie Greathouse also reside, one of the nurses gave Young Man a loving home. Sims said, “He was a unique man. Since his passing, I’ve met a lot of people who knew him. He’s touched a lot of lives.” There has been a tremendous amount of support from the community and many have shared fond memories and well wishes for his family since his passing.


  1. Grace Kelly on June 17, 2019 at 8:21 am

    GOD BLESS. I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Donnie. A very kind man.

  2. Coach on June 15, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    I didnt know him, unfortunately for me it seems. Any man that is so good to animals is a good man. And clearly he is missed. Maybe some of his friends or acquaintances, if they can, should make a small donation to a no kill animal shelter in his name. I think that would be a nice way to honor his memory. Or maybe even, atleast, throw a couple bites of food to a neighborhood stray?… R.I.P.

  3. Thelma on June 15, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    He is walking the streets of gold now with is beloved Sasha

  4. Larry Shaffer on June 15, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    I remember getting Donny’s axle replaced on his cart for him. He thought that was wonderful. Many times we would talk about the birds, trees and nature. When I found Donny last November everyone had deserted him including Bill Hodge, sorry but no one even cared anymore because they said Donny never tried helping himself. Donny was almost frozen in the back of a van some folks had given him. His mom and I convinced him to enter Manor Care where he died. His last words to me a few weeks back were, “you are my friend Larry.” “I am tired and ready to go home.” He passed shortly after that. Many times I visited him or he would come up by my house to just talk. R.I.P. DJ.

  5. Hilda on June 15, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    Miss you already May God bless you . you look like my brothers.RIP

  6. Darcina on June 15, 2019 at 6:32 am

    So sad not only for the loss of Donny but his family and also for all the animals that will miss him around town. God has a special place in Heaven for those like him!!

  7. Jim on June 14, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    God bless you !

  8. PAM C.S on June 14, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    my heart is bleeding.

  9. Heidi on June 14, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    My children and I always looked for him. When Sasha died we were so worried that he wouldn’t take care of himself, we were so glad when we saw he had Young Man to keep him company and give him someone to care for. We are very sad to hear of his passing. Such a gentle soul.

  10. Sheri on June 14, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    I only wish I could’ve met this hero. My husband told me about him. He is a true inspiration RIP DEAR

  11. Surprise on June 14, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    So sad 😞 I’ll miss seeing him around town, May he Rest In Peace…

  12. Kim on June 14, 2019 at 11:01 am

    Now you can walk the streets of Heaven forever.

  13. Sue on June 14, 2019 at 10:23 am

    We will miss you Donny.

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