Sonia Donoher, wife of coaching legend, dies at 87

Sonia Donoher, the wife of former Dayton Flyers coach Don Donoher, died on Tuesday at 87.

Sonia, a Stivers High School graduate, and Don met when Don was still playing at the University of Dayton. They married after he graduated in 1954.

According to the wedding announcement in the Sept. 26, 1954, edition of the Dayton Daily News, the Donohers were married at St. Agnes Church in Toledo, Don’s hometown. Don’s former teammates participated. Jim Paxson Sr. was the best man. Chris Harris and Tom Frericks were ushers.

The Donohers started their life together in Fort Benning, Ga., where Don was stationed with the U.S. Army. His coaching career began a couple years later, and he became Dayton’s head coach in 1964. One of the reasons Don loved the job was because it kept Sonia in her hometown.

“I didn’t see how it could be any better than coaching at my alma mater. I mean, you got to be kidding. What could be better?” Donoher told Dayton Daily News columnist Tom Archdeacon in 2015. “Sonia’s from here. All the basketball players stayed in town afterward. It was like being in a fraternity. It’s been a great privilege to be a part of the University of Dayton.”

In 1967, days before Dayton played in the Final Four for the first time, the Dayton Daily News profiled Sonia, who said, “It seems unbelievable. I’m just so happy for the boys. The kids have really put in a lot of hard work. They’re a wonderful group of boys.”

Dayton lost to UCLA in the championship game that year, but the tournament run set the tone for a 25-year head coaching career at Dayton (1964-89) for Don Donoher, who remains Dayton’s winningest coach. Sonia was by his side throughout this career, and he was by her side as she fought Alzheimer’s disease in recent years.

Last March, Donoher spoke to Archdeacon about Sonia, saying he visited her at a care center every afternoon and evening. He didn’t leave his wife to attend games at UD Arena.

“This is where I think I belong,” Don said.

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