James Dooley
James Dooley
James Dooley

Obituary of James Dooley

Fairfax, VT – James Joseph Dooley, 69, of Chaffee Road, passed away late Thursday, February 23, at Southwest Medical Center, Bennington, VT, after a brief illness complicated by Alzheimer’s Disease.

He was born October 5, 1947 in Queens, NY, to the late Francis and Eileen (Jennings) Dooley.

Jim was raised in New Hyde Park, NY, and was a graduate of Herricks High School, Class of 1965. He served in Vietnam with the 198th Light Infantry Brigade (LIB) of the Americal Division of the U.S. Army and was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained while serving as a point man for his battalion. Though they resulted in permanent physical limitations, Jim often referred to May 13, the day he detonated a trip grenade, as his “day of life,” as it was this incident that ultimately shaped the remainder of his life.

Jim’s professional life began in teaching, having earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Education from C.W. Post College, Long Island University. However, it was his work with the disabled, and later veterans, that formed the core of Jim’s professional life. For more than a decade, Jim served as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the State of Vermont, helping physically and mentally disabled individuals achieve their employment goals. His work with local groups to build curb cuts into sidewalks in the City of Burlington earned him an invitation to the signing ceremony for the Americans with Disabilities Act in July 1990, held on the south lawn of the White House. As a mental health clinician with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Jim may have made his most significant impact, counselling veterans and their families with a perspective that came from a shared experience. He did this for twenty-two years, until he retired in January 2014 after a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s.

As a soldier, Jim learned not to leave anyone behind. He quickly realized the lack of coordination of services faced by Alzheimer patients, and used his advocacy skills to try to raise awareness, speaking at community groups and before the state legislature in February 2015.

Jim will be remembered for his unwavering support of and advocacy for veterans and others with disabilities, his love of family, traveling, kayaking, nature and photography. He was an avid fan of Bob Dylan and reading, especially books on history. Jim was a volunteer fireman in North Hero, Vermont for 20 years. Jim loved navigation and would pour over maps in search of the ideal itinerary for an upcoming trip. Many, including long-time friend John Colony, will remember Jim’s decades-long love of motorcycles. Unable to hike or enjoy long walks, Jim loved the sense of freedom – what he termed “low flying” – that riding allowed him. Despite any challenges he faced, Jim’s philosophy was memorably upbeat: Life is what you make of it. Keep it simple and laugh a lot.

Jim is survived by his loving wife Sheila (Golden) Dooley. With Sheila, Jim shared a love that was pure and joyful and everlasting. To see them together sharing a laugh or a hug was to witness a love which words cannot fully describe. With Sheila’s love and care, Jim lived a rich life while remaining in the home he loved until shortly before he passed. He is also survived by three daughters: Kymberly (Matt) Breckenridge of Rhinebeck, NY; Brooke Dooley and friend Alex Chaffee of Burlington, VT; Hope Dooley and fiancée Will Gruver of Savannah, GA; two step-sons: Joseph Newton and partner Caroline Fleming of Plant City, FL; Judson Newton (Kate Anderson) of Essex, VT; and seven grandchildren and step-grandchildren: Ian, Maya, Maxwell, Joseph, Samuel, Maximus and Charlotte. He is also survived by two sisters: Pat (John) Mauro of Massapequa, NY; Kathy (Guenter) Schroeder of Jacksonville, FL; two brothers: Bob (Geraldine Walker-Rifenburgh) Dooley of Poughkeepsie, NY; Tom (Diane) Dooley of Dallas, TX; several nieces and nephews and their families.

A Celebration of Life will be held Thursday, March 2 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Minor Funeral Home, 237 Route 7 South in Milton. A memorial service will be held at the United Church of Fairfax, 8 Fletcher Road, Friday, March 3, 10:30 a.m. A committal of ashes will occur later this spring in the Vermont Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery, Randolph Center, VT.

Donations in Jim’s memory may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association - Vermont Chapter, www.alz.org or the Vermont National Guard Charitable Foundation (Attention: Richard Brehm), 789 Vermont National Guard Road, Colchester, VT, 05446.