GANDER, NL – One of Gander’s most famous and friendly citizens has passed away.
Phillip “Phil” Dooley died on Feb. 7, two months shy of his 65th birthday.
Since word came of Dooley’s passing, hundreds of tributes have been posted on social media for a man many describe as a “town icon.”
There’s been a poem and a ballad written about the gentle giant and a suggestion on social media that a street in Gander be named after Dooley.
A regular at many local businesses and a common sight around town with his brother Danny, Dooley has been described as a big man with a big smile – a man with a knack for electronics who took pleasure in helping others.
The Gander Flyers held a moment of silence for Dooley at their hockey game on Feb. 10.
Gander mayor Percy Farwell said Dooley was as much of an icon in Gander as anyone who ever lived there. He had an incredible memory and was consistently in a good mood, the mayor during a recent phone interview.
Dooley deserves to be recognized for his tremendous contribution to the town, Farwell said.
“Phil always had time to talk to you and he was always an interesting person to talk to. You wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to talk to Phil. No one that I know has ever had any reason not to like Phil. He was such a joy to know,” Farwell said.
Dr. Meino Mast met Dooley about five years ago. The two quickly became friends.
“There hasn’t been a day that Phil did not drop over to my house to chit-chat about his bikes and everything that happened in Gander that day,” Mast wrote on social media.
Dooley took great pride in looking after Mast’s home and pets when he was out of town.
He loved Mast’s dogs and they loved him.
“Phil kept my driveway free of snow in the winter and my grass short in the summer. Phil was magical with anything that had a motor,” he wrote.
Mast wrote how Dooley had keys and free access to his home.
“Sometimes, I caught him napping in my house while he babysat my dogs. My shed will miss his two big Goldwings (motorcycles) his pride and joy – and there would have been three after his birthday,” Mast wrote.
Dooley also visited Mast’s dental office every day. Mast said he and his staff will miss his morning visits and “lovely chats.”
Dooley was devoted to his parents, Mary E. and Gerald Dooley. He visited his father every day at Lakeside Homes. Staff at the home have written via social media how, they, too, will miss his visits.
On the program passed out during Dooley’s funeral, the Dooley family thanked the people of Gander for “caring and respecting Phil for who he was.”
It’s who he was that made Dooley so unique and loveable.
Robyn Moyles grew up in Gander. She describes Dooley as “one of the most amazing people she’s ever met.”
“I really admired his keenness when it came to electronics... People would bring their things to the electronics store. They would say they couldn’t fix it. And Phil would take it and fix it... he was just a legend and he’ll be really missed,” Moyles said when contacted by phone at her home in Toronto.
After she moved away, Moyles said, Dooley continued to ask her parents (Helen and Cluny Moyles) how she was doing.
“He would go up and talk to anyone... he was a man beyond his time,” Moyles said.
Mary Ellen Whalen said her cousin enjoyed doing odd jobs for others.
“He cleared snow, mowed their lawns. He was very trustworthy,” she said.
His aunt Jane Dooley said her sister and brother-in-law were exceptional parents who taught all their children about honesty and other important things in life.
“They taught Phil and Dan and their other children about treating everybody with respect. They did without themselves so that their children could have everything they needed,” she said.
Mast summed up just how much he will miss his friend, words that others in the airport town no doubt also echo.
“There is a void in me that cannot be filled by anyone but you. Hang in there, buddy we will all join you one day. In the meantime, keep an eye on my house and myself from wherever you are. I'm sure you will be great entertainment and a great asset for our and your God,” he wrote.
Dooley is survived by his parents, his brothers Danny, Ron, Donald and Barry, his sister Ruby Cutler as well as many other relatives and friends.
An estimated 500 people turned out at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Gander on Feb. 10 to celebrate Phil’s life. Donations to his family are gratefully accepted.