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.