Sunday, June 27, 2010
MEETING DR. TOM DOOLEY
Oh, to be young and idealistic! In 1960, I was a totally anti-Communist, hawkish, gungo-ho JFK supporter. By 1968, I was a totally anti-war, Eugene McCarthy supporter.
My friend Cammy and I were hopeless hero-worshipers. Our number one hero was, of course, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; next was Albert Schweitzer. We idealized Thoreau and Gandhi. We devoured all books and articles about our heroes and had no doubt that we would dedicate our lives to some noble purpose. I gave Cammy a bronze-like bust of Schweitzer as her 19th birthday present. I remember that it cost $19.99 at Lazarus and I used part of my graduation present money to buy it! She still has the bust.
Next on our heroes list was Dr. Tom Dooley. When I ask people today about Tom Dooley, they remember the song by The Kingston Trio, but in the 1950's and 1960's Dr. Dooley was a very famous humanitarian and a best-selling author.
He was born in 1927 and as a 27-year-old Navy doctor, "he had been ordered to Indo China after the fall of Dien Bien Phu. In a small international compound, within the totally Communist North Viet Nam, Dr. Dooley built huge refugee camps to care for hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking passage to freedom"; thus, stated the dust jacket from his book, "Deliver Us From Evil" which my friend Cammy had given to me as a present.
In 1960, Cammy had just graduated from high school and had gone to visit her grandmother and Aunt Shorty in Dayton; her mother called and told her that Dr. Dooley was going to lecture in Columbus. Cammy rushed home from Dayton; she called me and I jumped in her red Valiant and we sped to Vets Memorial. We had good seats and Cammy had brought her books and I had brought mine with hope of meeting the great man and having the books autographed.
During the speech, Dr. Dooley told of his mission to help people in Viet Nam and Laos. He also told about his battle with cancer. As he spoke, I wrote this down: "I am not going to quit. I will continue to guide and lead my hospital until my back, my blood and my bones collapse!" Cammy and I were crying and wiping away mascara smudges.
After the lecture, we were able to talk to him and have our books autographed. I remember that he admired Cammy's fountain pen which she had handed to him to autograph her books. He commented about Cammy's inscription in my book and asked what the names meant. As silly girls do, we had given each other pen names: mine was Taylor C. Shirkey and hers was Daphne D. Carman. We had named ourselves after two very famous women writers: Taylor Caldwell and Daphne de Maurier! Only later did we realize we should've adopted names of good writers. I should've been Simone de Bouvier Shirkey!
Yes, he was our hero! He died on January 18, 1961, at age 34. After his death, there was a campaign to have the Vatican begin to have him canonized as a saint! Only later, in 1993, when I read Randy Shilts book "Conduct Unbecoming", did I learn that Dooley had resigned from the Navy in 1956 because of his homosexuality. Of course, that did not diminish him in any way in my estimation, but I'm sure the Catholic Church felt differently! Only in the 1990's, under the Freedom of Information Act, did we learn that he had been a CIA operative. Of course, in 1960, I would have seen that as his patriotic duty.
I still contribute to H.A.L.O., an organization which continues his work with refugees, because it's really difficult for me to give up on my heroes.