Get to know Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas’ five children: Michael, Kevin, Daniel, Mary Rose and James
Phil and his college sweetheart, Margaret Cooney, married right after the couple graduated in 1958. The pair then welcomed five children — Michael, Kevin, Daniel, Mary Rose and James — and in 1975, they divorced after 17 years of marriage. In the divorce settlement, Phil retained custody of his four sons, while Cooney got custody of their daughter.
Phil married Marlo on May 21, 1980. Marlo became the kids’ stepmother — a role she was happy to take on. In May 2011, Marlo told AARP.org that she never planned to be a “mother to Phil’s children in the traditional sense” because they already had a mom. She said she wanted to be a “friend” instead.
“When I was growing up, my mother was always a friend to my siblings and me (in addition to being all the other things a mom is), and I was always grateful for that because I knew she was someone I could talk to and joke with, and argue with and that nothing would ever harm that friendship,” she explained. “So I used that model with Phil's kids, and I'm proud to say that the friendships I established with them are as strong today as they were 30 years ago — even stronger.”
"The light's started to go on in me. I noticed that my children weren't really sharing feelings with me — and one of the reasons was I don't do a hell of a lot of sharing with them in terms of feelings,” he explained. “And I began to examine why, listen to some of the shrinks and people who do our show. I began to realize that not much in the way we were raised encouraged that."
After The Phil Donahue Show ended, Phil returned to prime time in 2002 with the MSNBC show Donahue. That year, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Phil for O, The Oprah Magazine and asked what his children thought of his return to television. “They're surprised. But they've also said, ‘Go get 'em, Pop,’ ” he said. “I'm not 29 anymore, my wife isn't pregnant, I'm not trying to raise kids, I don't have a mortgage — so it takes less courage for me to speak up.”
Here’s what to know about Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas’ five children: Michael, Kevin, Daniel, Mary Rose and James.
Michael Phillip Donahue
Phil and Cooney’s oldest child is son Michael Phillip Donahue, born in 1959. He graduated from New Trier East High School in Winnetka, Illinois, before attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, according to The New York Times. In 1986, he began working as an account executive at Katz American TV, according to TVNewsCheck. He also worked at other broadcast media companies, including with ABC at WTNH-TV in New Haven, Connecticut, before moving to Boston to work at Katz again.
Michael married Martha Reed von Gal, who is known as Reed, on April 27, 1991, according to The New York Times. The couple tied the knot at St. Michael Parish in Greenwich, Connecticut. Reed graduated from Saint Michael's College with a bachelor of arts in sociology and later from Boston College with a master’s degree in social work. In 2020, Marlo shared on Facebook that for more than 20 years, Reed was the owner and director of the Little Red Wagon PlaySchool.
Over the years, Reed has been an advocate for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which was founded by Marlo’s father, comedian Danny Thomas. In September 2021, Marlo wrote on Instagram that Reed was a “true guardian angel” for St. Jude.
Michael and Reed are parents to two children: a son, Connor, and a daughter, Kenzie. Marlo referred to her stepgrandson — who is also her godson — as her “soulmate” on Instagram.
Even though Marlo and her grandchildren are not biologically related, she shows plenty of love and affection for them. In another post from 2015, Marlo wrote: “Kenzie is not my [biological] grandchild. But I love her as I do all my biological nieces and nephews. She is my family and I love every moment of her dear life that we have shared.”
Kevin John Donahue
Phil and Cooney’s second child is their son Kevin John Donahue, born in about 1959. After his parents’ divorce, Kevin and his three brothers stayed with their father in Ohio. Phil’s family lived outside of Dayton, Ohio, which was the original site of The Phil Donahue Show until 1974, when the show moved to Chicago. The show moved to New York City in 1984 before its end in 1996.
Kevin began studying at the University of Kansas in 1979. As of 2013, he lived near his father and stepmother in N.Y.C. According to Marlo, he has run marathons in his 30s, 40s and 50s, including in Stockholm in 1996.
Over the years, he’s gone on several outings with his father and stepmother. In 2011, Marlo posted a photo with Kevin on Facebook, sharing that the trio enjoyed a day on their boat in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
The family also made a special trip together up to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, as documented on Marlo’s social media.
Daniel Timothy Donahue
Phil and Cooney’s third child is son Daniel Timothy Donahue, born in about 1961. Not much is known about Daniel, who lived in Connecticut as of 2013, according to Marlo.
Daniel has visited his parents for holidays, including on Thanksgiving with his dad, stepmother and brother Kevin.
Mary Rose Donahue
Phil and Cooney have one daughter, Mary Rose Donahue, born in about 1965. After the couple’s divorce, Cooney retained custody of Mary Rose and they moved to New Mexico, where Cooney had grown up. Not much is known about Phil’s only daughter, as she retains a private life.
In August 2011, Marlo shared that Mary Rose had recently begun culinary school. She took her stepdaughter to visit the restaurant Topper’s in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where they spoke to the restaurant’s chef, Tom Pearson.
Mary Rose and her siblings have been a staple at the family’s holiday gatherings. She’s celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with her family, and even helped her dad carve the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.
James “Jim” Patrick Donahue
Phil and Cooney’s youngest child is James “Jim” Patrick Donahue, born in about 1963. For more than 20 years, Jim worked as an investigative researcher and writer at Essential Information, a nonprofit founded by Ralph Nader. In his later years, he lived and practiced law in Hawaii.
Jim died of an aortic aneurysm at age 51 in August 2014, the Dayton Daily News reported. The Donahues’ former Ohio neighbor, Maddi Breslin, described Jim as a thoughtful boy with a lot of friends. “I dearly loved him and thought of him as one of my own kids,” Breslin added.
Marlo referred to her stepson as “a great light in our family, a funny character and an independent spirit” in a message to friends.
In an official statement, the family shared that Jim was cremated and his ashes “were scattered by his family in the beautiful, warm and tranquil waters of Honolulu that he loved, and where he will forever be at peace.”
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