Ina Jo Donovan

Ina Jo Donovan
Sarasota Actress
Exits Stage Left

A soft laugh, a gentle joke, a smooth little dance step. That’s what Ina Jo gave, even on the last day she was with us.

Hannah and I were blessed to be with Ina Jo when she passed. And even more to have her in our lives. There was not a day that Ina Jo didn’t make me laugh at least five times.

So many of you have written — and we would love to have you share your personal remembrances of her right here.

Here’s the general news release that was sent out;

Long-time Sarasota resident Ina Jo Donovan, an award-winning actress/singer/dancer, who most recently starred in the musical comedy NUNSENSE at the LVH Hotel in Las Vegas, has passed away in her Las Vegas home.

Donovan appeared as Sister Amnesia in NUNSENSE for almost two years, when illness forced her to curtail her performance schedule.

A New York City native, she appeared in more than 30 plays and musicals in regional theaters throughout the United States. She was a favorite nightclub performer in the showrooms and lounges of the famous resorts of upstate New York.

Donovan won the SAMMY award for BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL from the Sarasota and Manatee Critics’ Association for her role as Velma Kelly in CHICAGO.

Among Ina Jo’s personal favorite roles were Aldonza in MAN OF LA MANCHA, Annie Sullivan in THE MIRACLE WORKER, Anita in WEST SIDE STORY and, of course, her AWARD WINNING ROLE as Velma in CHICAGO.

A graduate of Western Illinois University with a degree in Fine Arts, Ina Jo’s talents were not limited to performance theater. Her other interests included the practice of law. She worked as a paralegal in Sarasota and in Las Vegas.

Ina Jo is survived by her sisters, Hannah and Lisa, and by her brother Thom Donovan of New Port Richie.

To view her web site that she created, click here

Please read the remembrances of our lovely Ina Jo below.  Comments have been closed.

26 thoughts on “

  1. Joan Donovan

    I can’t believe she is gone! The only way I can accept this is to say Ina is gone, I loved her and she has gone before me to open the door when I go to God.
    I am 78 and hope to join her, Joe and the rest of my family soon. Ina always wanted to make things easier for me. She loved me so much. That is how Ina was always trying to make my life easy. I will always miss her!

  2. Denise Williams

    Oh My Gosh……What A Shock! Unfortunately, I am just hearing of her passing. I am extremely saddened. My condolences to her sisters, brother and friends. She was always plesurable, stylish and funny. A true gem. I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to see her perform, I wasn’t aware she was an actress/singer until very late in our working together, but could envision her as an actress because of her captivating presence.

  3. Bill Graziano

    Dear Lisa and Hannah, please accept my deepest sympathies and condolences over the passing of Ina Jo. Ina Jo and I actually had a few conversations over the last 45 years or so. She was always sweet and pleasant, a chat with Ina Jo never failed to be uplifting.

    Memories may fade, but are frequently enhanced with an embellishment or two which keep the good thoughts and feelings alive. To me, Ina Jo will always be a wonderful and vivacious 16 year old who never failed to make me smile. So sorry.

    Bill Graziano

  4. Robert A. Cupo

    I had the honor of meeting and getting to know Ina Jo through my good friend and school bus buddy, Lisa. I vividly remember getting off the school bus with Lisa and standing on the corner of Princeton in all kinds of weather, talking about many subjects. It was always a great way to end our school day. I also remember stopping by the Donovan home with some of my friends, usually on a Friday or Saturday night and conversing with the three very talented and beautiful Donovan girls! They always made us feel welcome and the time we spent with them was most enjoyable! Ina Jo was delightful and funny. Always full of energy and very witty. She was like a little sister. I believe she worked as a waitress at Buxtons when I worked there one summer after I came home from college. She would always say something funny to make me laugh. She said something to me one time that I never forgot and always associated with her. She said: “Bob, I want to be a banana” I said: ” A Banana?” She replied: “Yes, so I can be one of the bunch!” That was Ina Jo! I wanted to let Lisa and Hannah know that I saw Ina Jo’s name on Classmates.Com about a week or two ago. I sent her a short e-mail to say hello. I did not receive a reply and I now know why. Such a loss and so very sad. Dear Lisa and Hannah, please know that I have fond memories of all of you and you will forever be in my heart. You are all good friends and that will never change. I feel your pain and your sorrow to lose such a wonderful member of your family and someone I will never, ever forget. Please accept my sincere condolences.

    With love,

    Bob Cupo

  5. Barbara

    I just heard about Ina Jo’s successful career from another friend that went to high school with Ina Jo and myself. I looked her up and was so saddened to hear of her passing at the same time I heard of her success. Ina Jo was destined to showcase her talent and I am so happy to hear that she did succeed. Ina was always a spark in the crowd and we all know that heaven is filled with her music. I am so sorry for your loss.

  6. Mark Dodds

    Ina Jo was a pleasure to work with. For probably five years she assisted me every Wednesday at my Summerlin area law office. Only one other person who has worked with me over the years took care of me the way Ina Jo would, week after week. The files were always ready in advance, notes attached if there was something special I might need. Clients were taken care of. Never a complaint. I never hear Ina Jo say an unkind word about anyone, even against some who probably had it coming.

    I regret I did not go see her in “Nunsense.” However, some of the visitors to this site may remember Ina Jo and her sister, Lisa, put on a Halloween review, full of old standards and some new songs as well, all, of course, with a Halloween theme. Most memorable for me was “Loathing” (if that’s the name of it, from “Wicked”), an incredible duet with Ina Jo and Lisa. Wonderful talent.

    Ina Jo was very humble about her talents. I didn’t know of her background in the business until several years following the time we began working together. I was very upset when she was terminated at the office where we worked together, but with the way it worked it, with her getting the opportunity to perform again, well, some things like that are meant to happen.

  7. Nancy Gregory

    I just want to acknowledge something about the sweet, gentle-spirited lady that we all lost last month. Ina Jo really had a special talent. Her comedy timing, her ability to take on any character and make it her own and the endearing way she could connect to the audience were just a few things that stand out in my mind. I vividly remember the audition when I first saw Ina Jo. I knew immediately that there was something very unique and special about her. What I did not know that day and would come to find out was how genuinely kind she was, what an amazing work ethic she had and how she never backed down from a challenge.
    But the way she stood up to this last challenge was remarkable. I am so sadden for her beautiful, talented Lisa, her sister, who loved her so deeply and protected her at every turn. Ina Jo, may you be smiling that gorgeous smile as you look down and see what other people loved about you.


  8. Dan Ellis

    I had the pleasure of working with Ina Jo and Lisa at the Hilton doing Nunsense together. I remember vividly been the day the two of them came to audition for the respective parts. What a happy and entertaining pair. Ina Jo was such a pleasure to work with. In that tiny little frame was a very strong woman. She was unafraid and willing cover more than one role whenever necessary. And she was perhaps one of the most gentle people I’ve ever known. I don’t think I ever heard her complain about anyone else, or for that matter, anything. She had an excellent command of her character, both onstage and off. It was my pleasure to have known, worked with and admire Ina Jo. And my heart goes out to the family, especially Lisa, who I know carries this sadness with dignity. God bless you Ina Jo. We will all see you soon in a much better place, and until then have a gentle smile when thinking of you. Thanks for the memories.

  9. Kathryn Arianoff

    I had the pleasure of working with both Lisa and Ina Jo in the cast of “NUNSENSE!” at the Las Vegas Hilton (LVH). I am going to reprint many of the thoughts that cast members, and families of cast members shared after the news of her passing…
    Kelly Clinton Holmes mother is a very sweet spirit, Ellie Clinton Issa wrote: So sorry to hear this sad news. Condolences to the family.
    Jaymie Geis is a choreographer that worked for years in the same theater that we did Nunsense in, she wrote: God Bless
    My sister, Susan Haynie, wrote: That was a great, fun show and you actresses worked very closely. Prayers and Hugs.
    Craig Keyes was one of our keyboard players, he wrote: That’s so sad. I will miss her.
    Anita Bean, who was one of our “Reverend Mother” characters, wrote: Thanks for letting us all know Kathy. I am so sad that her beautiful spirit has left the earth. Please let me know if there is anything I can do. I would love to get together with all our “sisters” to honor her.
    Robin Berry-Vincent, cast member, wrote: Oh No, so sorry to hear this. I know she had been ill. My condolences to Lisa and her family.
    Ashley Belle (Trent Carlini’s wife) who worked in his show at the same theater during our run, wrote: Hi it’s Ashley from the shimmer. I just heard about Ina Jo. I’m so sorry! If you hear any information regarding any open memorial services I would love to know. My heart is heavy for her sister and family and you and the rest of her friends and family and cast members. She was such an amazing woman and entertainer.
    Personally, I, Kathy Arianoff, have received many phone calls from Dan Ellis. We spoke often of how we all miss Ina Jo, and how much we would love to get together again with everyone to remember. Michael T (our drummer) expressed similar sentiments. There were emails from our director, Nancy Gregory, and our producer, Jay Harvey, expressing how much they appreciated all her hard work, and how much they will miss her. Michelle Johnson did a lot to update our “NUNSENSE!” Facebook page, and helped let people know how about this sad occasion.
    Being a real estate agent as well as a cast member, I also was able to help sell Ina Jo’s condo, and in doing so I learned a lot more about her. I knew she was a dedicated, talented and creative spirit. I learned that she was also incredibly organized and highly intelligent. Every time I needed something from her in the transaction, she had it perfectly ready and available. She was highly skilled as a paralegal, and it carried over into every part of her life. I was very much in admiration for a person who could excell on so many levels.
    Ina Jo, we will see you in that great, grand chorus of angels in the sky. We shall meet again… Love, Kathy

  10. Cindy

    I just heard of Ina Jo’s passing and my heart goes out to her sister and family as I know she will be missed by all who knew her. I worked with Ina Jo for several years before she moved from Florida and she was always so positive, always smiling and outgoing. Ina Jo taught me a great deal on how to wear make up (a very fond memory).

    She will be missed.

  11. Roger Conley

    We just learned today of Ina’s passing and everyone in our office feels a sense of deep loss.
    She was my trusted legal assistant for a number of years and all all of us here were a little downcast when she moved to Las Vegas –our built-in daily entertainment had left.
    Ina was a breath of fresh air–quick with a quip, witty and always smiling. There will never be another Ina Jo and we will miss her deeply, but her memory will always bring a warm smile to our hearts.

  12. Jim Crisp

    The news of Ina Jo’s passing arrived yesterday and took all the breath out of me. So many great memories of a loving, lovely, funny, thoughtful, generous friend and woman washed over me. We met when we were both about 19 years old and became fast friends as I also did with her sweet sister, Lisa. Our first time on stage together was in “The Crucible” at MJC directed by our wonderful teacher, John James. I played Rev. Hale and Ina played Elizabeth Procter. She was a force to be reckoned with on stage-even then. We all learned a lot by watching her work-her depth of conviction, her ability to inhabit a character and create truthful moments in great simplicity. She was one of my best friends in my entire life. When I went away to Western Illinois University and she followed the next year, I was thrilled. We continued to share friends, plays and special moments in our young lives. We drove together from Florida to Western a couple of times-Ina would sing-she always sang-we would laugh and tell each other stories and keep company in that unique way good friends can do. I can honestly say, I might not have gotten through college if it weren’t for Ina Jo. I could not type, was a lazy student, put my term papers off until the last minute, BUT Ina Jo would stay up all night with me and help me get my papers done and she would type them. She could make me laugh or smile even during the toughest times. I had the great good privilege of knowing Ina Jo’s and Lisa’s sweet parents and remember when their Dad died near thanksgiving, I think, I went to their house and found two remarkable, strong young women joyfully celebrating their dear father’s life.-I have never forgotten that. Oh Lisa, I do share your loss and grieve with you. Knowing Ina is not somewhere in this life with us makes life a little less glad.But how grateful I am that I knew her well enough to call her, Friend. I will miss her terribly.

  13. Robert Saulich

    Ina Jo, Lisa, and I went to high school together. It was me and “The Donovan Sisters” who sang together, and believe me, got into our share of mischief. Even though I hadn’t seen Ina Jo in years we never failed to exchange Christmas cards.

    Three days before I heard of Ina Jo’s passing I was in Penn Station (NYC) getting on an escalator when this woman with the luggage on wheels ran over my foot. She kept saying “are you all right, are you all right”. Going down the escalator I told her that I have a friend (Ina Jo) who after falling down and asked “are you all right” would blurt out “no, I’m half left”. The woman had a good laugh!! Ina Jo surely must have staged the event!!

    One other thing. In high school “The Donovan Sisters” and I would sing this choral piece “O Magnum Mysterium” as many times as Carol Channing must have sung “Hello, Dolly”. Other kids were singing The Beatles-we were singing “O Magnum Mysterium”!! (Go figure). This past Christmas I wrote Ina Jo and told her I was planning to sing the piece with the choir I direct. This Christmas I surely will, and dedicate the piece to my dear friend. Of course, I expect her to join in!!

  14. Kevin Donovan

    I had so many thoughts I wanted to express…but as I read through all of your posts I began to think that you have all captured Ina’s essence and vitality so well that I couldn’t offer any insight that would add to what you have all expressed so well. So I”ll add one memory of mine …and it’s not from my youth or as an young adult when Ina spent so much time with us. It was the last time I saw Ina – well, I don’t want to say “saw” her, because as you all know , you didn’t just “see” Ina – you were blessed to be in her presence. But the last time I was this fortunate was at my youngest brother Brian’s wedding in Las Vegas a few years ago. When I found out she was going to be there I felt I was 10 years old again and we were playing Gin Rummy, drinking Constant Comment Tea and listening to stories about pop. On top of that , I was eager to introduce my children to someone that was so dear to me. So I was at a loss when she didn’t stay very long – she was gone even before I knew it. …and I that’s how I feel now – she’s gone even before I knew it.
    Rest well Ina, We all love and miss you very much.

  15. John keegan

    every time I saw Ina joe she was singing and even the birds listened.when she danced The stars in the heavens watched.she had love in her heart she judged no one and made you feel comfortable whenever it in her presence. She was one of the most gracious hostess I have ever met love John

  16. Michael Donovan

    Everybody should be lucky in life to have an aunt like Ina Jo. When we were little, and visiting Pop Donovan in Lakewood N.J. Ina would always keep us entertained. It was Ina who taught us how to play rock school, color with us, and make sure we weren’t bored.
    I remember visiting Ina and Lisa when they had an apartment In Greenwich Village one summer. For the Donovan boys who lived such a safe and ordinary existence on Staten Island, our aunts; Hannah, Lisa, and Ina Jo seemed so adventurous and full of life. We would listen to them sing, watch them cheerlead, or just fill Pop’s house with laughter and music. I am pretty sure that it was Ina who invented the mythical demon that we searched for on our way home from Pop Donovan’s each trip. Does anyone else remember “Nosey-Nosack !” I think searching for Nosey kept the Donovan boys quiet on the ride home from Jersey.
    I guess Ina was just out of college when she came to live with us on Staten Island. She opened us to literature, the theatre and music. She would desperately try and explanin why Duke Ellington was so much greater a musical genius than any of the rock musicians we weree listening to. She was a great friend, and confidant, as well as a loving and wonderful aunt.
    She told some of the worst jokes, and she would insist on telling them over and over, One was “What time is it when the Chinaman’s tooth hurt?” Why “TOOTH-HURTY” of course! this was followed quickly with “What time was it when the Chinaman’s tent blew away?” “TENT-TWENTY” Lets not even get started on “Herman the wide mouth frog”
    My friends all loved Ina, we were her biggest fans. We would drive to Club Bene, or Manassas, or the Catskills to watch her perform. Ina would think nothing of getting in the car and driving us to Pennsylvania in the middle of the night so my frineds and I could go camping.
    Ina came to visit my mom on Staten Island a couple of years ago. We went to lunch, talked about old memories and laughed about old adventures. I was happy my daughter Kelsey got to see what all the fuss was about, and why we loved Ina so much.
    I am truly sorry to say that I haven’t been in touch with Ina over the last few years, and sorrier still that I didn’t get to say good-by. I will always love and miss my wonderful Aunt.

  17. Chris Pendleton

    What a joy to have known Ina Jo, she was such a smart, funny, talented woman! I am so glad I got to know her, and that my daughter got to know her, and that we had the chance to get together on so many fun occasions (birthdays, Halloween, Christmas!) I will always remember her dazzling smile, her quick wit, and the way her face would light up when she sang funny duets with her big sister, Lisa! Ina Jo, you left us too soon, but you will not be forgotten! You made the world a brighter place!

  18. Marguerite Porter Boneski

    Years ago in high school I was fortunate to meet the incredible Donovan sisters. Hannah, who remains my best friend, beautiful and talented Lisa, and Ina Jo who I believe was the soul of the trio. She will be missed, but I truly believe she is singing away in Heaven. God bless, Marghie

  19. Fran & Lois Moran

    InaJo, wow, we shared so many wonderful happy and sad times .
    Weddings, family trips, our fun cruise when you won the Talent Show, getting lost in Sonoma, singing “Danny Boy” for Pop’s
    Goodbye Mass, when I just showed up
    To see your mom, one last time. The last time we were together , we will always
    Love You and will miss you forever .

  20. Delwyn Webber

    So very sad to hear of Ina’s passing. Ina was such a talented, kind and caring soul and I was proud to call her my friend. Rest In Peace beautiful lady, you will be greatly missed by everyone that had the privilege of knowing you.

  21. Pat & Tom Fennessey

    We will never forget my beautiful, sweet, funny ‘little Cuz’. We enjoyed many holiday dinners and family celebrations together. Ina was so talented and it was so much fun watching her perform after we moved to Bradenton. We’d get a large group of neighbors together to see her perform and she always delivered a great show. She was very special and we will miss her.

    Rest in peace, dear Cuz.

  22. Louis Landon

    I had the good fortune of working with Ina Jo for almost a decade when I was the bandleader at the Raleigh Hotel in the Catskill Mountains. I also contracted Ina to perform on other gigs outside of the hotel. As a singer and dancer, Ina was one special performer. A super professional and one of the sexiest women I have ever met. I got to watch Ina from behind. 😉 On a personal note, Ina was a great friend. During the time that we worked together, I went through some particularly difficult times in my life. Ina was always there for me with a smile. I will miss her incredible energy.

  23. John James

    Ina will forever be, in my memory, that bundle of talent and energy who came to Manatee Junior College when she was 18, but was able to project maturity far beyond her years. She was outstanding in her performances in LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL, THE CRUCIBLE and especially as Aldonza in MAN OF LA MANCHA. Everywhere she went after she left our school, she was a favorite and a hit. I lost touch with her after she left Bradenton the last time, and that is my fault. Keep singing and smiling my dear, sweet Ina Jo. Heaven needed an angel like you. John James, Professor, retired

  24. Bill Patterson

    I did not know Ina but am sure she was a wonderful person and great sister. I only know of her through my association with Lisa and Stan Evans.

    She is at peace.

  25. Joseph Donovan

    For me, Ina Jo was the older sister I never had. She came back into my life while I was still a teen, and she had moved back to NY to pursue her career. She was there for me and listened to my problems and was understanding and not judgemaental in any way. She may be gone but she will never be forgotten – she left an indelible mark on all who were lucky enough to meet her.

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