Monday, July 10, 2017

Mayday Volunteer and Peace/Labor Activist

Thomas R Dooley, born January 20, 1926, died July 4, 2017

Comrade Tom died at the age of 91 of unknown causes in a nursing home or hospice in St. Paul, after a short stay, having transferred from United Hospital subsequent to colon surgery for colon cancer.  His mother died on July 4th too when he was 6 months old, so Tom grew up without a mother for nearly all of his life. 

Tom Tabling for May Day in his Traditional Suspenders
Tom grew up around Loring Park in Minneapolis.  He went to Catholic schools for awhile and was an alter boy at the Basilica during the Father Couglin period.  In his youthful enthusiasm then, he threw snowballs at the nearby Communist Party headquarters.  But his views changed.

Tom went to a bomber gunner school in Texas during WWII, but the war ended before he was deployed.  He became radicalized as an anti-war activist by opposing the tragic war in Vietnam.  He was a member of Veterans For Peace, joining when he retired and writing a column for the Veterans for Peace newsletter.  Tom was also a long-time member of the DeLeonist New Union Party, supporting ‘one big union’ and various labor causes.  Tom also did a funny and well-written column for them, titled “My Fellow Commodity” in the local New Unionist paper, which was one of its high points.  He used ‘myfellowcommodity’ after that in his e-mail address.  He was a long-time volunteer at Mayday Books and the most dedicated book-tabler Mayday Books had, always volunteering to sell books for the non-profit store.  He was a consistent letter and e-mail writer for progressive causes and very generous with his donations to every left group.  He designed a unique saw-horse mostly for wood-working, and donated them to many Women Against Military Madness auctions and friends.  He attended Minnesota Atheist meetings and believed in ‘no gods, no masters.’ As part of that, he crossed out the word “God” on nearly every bit of U.S. currency he was going to spend.  Really.

Several people have remarked that Tom was a 'Jimmy Higgins.' They are the people on the left who do the 'grunt' work - a labor activist 'everyman' rank and filer, as celebrated in the Socialist Labor Party play, "Jimmy Higgins."  There can be no left without "Jimmy Higginses."   Tom believed in 'No master, no slave...' and he might agree.  However, from my perspective, those who do the ground work are leaders too.

Tom sold appliances for Admiral in his younger days as a traveling salesman, then worked for the Minnesota Highway Department on the maintenance crew, from which he retired.   He married once and had 5 children.  After his marriage ended, he met Lenore Burgard, a local political activist and they formed a liaison.  In his later years he lived in the basement of his daughter Mary Kay Edward’s home in St. Paul.

Tom’s major interest was in protesting the endless wars the U.S. pursued over the years.  He was a class conscious pacifist and always wore a button against war. He had a great sense of humor, and was one of the kindest and most giving persons on the left in the metro area.  He stickered junk mail with anti-war messages or cartoons and sent it back to the poor souls who would receive the mail.  He spent time in Twin City bars from the old Stand Up Franks to the new hipster Red Cow with his friends, and left anti-war buttons with his tips.  He always liked a good beer and food to relax – though he didn’t like the Irish bars, in spite of his Irish background.  Even at the end, he was making perceptive comments and jokes about the ways of the hospital. 

Tom’s death reminds us that another generation of activists is passing from the scene.  He will be greatly missed. But as Tom would have it, the struggle continues. 

A memorial for Tom will be held at Mayday Books at 4 PM, July 29, Saturday.

Greg, Kristen, Doug, Don, Craig & Morgan

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