Thomas Dooley knew exactly what he believed — and the people around him knew it, too.
A bumper sticker on his car read “Stop the bombing” in large letters and “Reusable bumper sticker” in smaller letters. Servers at the restaurants where he ate routinely got antiwar buttons with their tips. And before he parted with his cash, he’d first cross out the word “God” on each bill.
Remembered for his dry humor, love of learning and dedication to the Twin Cities activist community, Dooley died July 4 in St. Paul. He was 91.
Dooley was born and raised in Minneapolis. His mother died when he was just 6 months old, leaving his father to raise Dooley and his older brother, Ken.
Dooley attended parochial schools growing up and served as an altar boy at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. As an adult, he became an ardent atheist.
He went on to join the Air Force and trained as a bomber gunner during World War II — though the war ended before he was deployed.
“[He] didn’t serve overseas, and he was still opposed to war,” said his daughter, Mary Kay Edwards.
The war in Vietnam propelled Dooley into activism. He regularly participated in protests, Edwards said, and always referred to the conflict as the American War in Vietnam, rather than the Vietnam War.
At the time, Dooley and his wife were raising their children in Blaine. Opposing the war made Dooley stand out there, said friend and Vietnam veteran Craig Palmer.
“Coming out against the Vietnam War, living in the far suburbs, was a pretty courageous thing to do,” he said.
Dooley became involved in other progressive causes, too. In the 1970s, he stopped by Blaine City Hall to talk to city officials about recycling — a topic that didn’t gain much traction at the time, Edwards said.
Dooley, a road maintenance worker and snowplow driver, also took an interest in labor issues. He joined the local chapter of the New Union Party and wrote a regular column for the party’s newspaper, the New Unionist.
“I think a lot of people always turned to Tom’s column first,” said friend George Kane. “There were others who tried writing about big current issues, whereas Tom’s was more humorous and folksy and personal.”
In addition to writing his column, Dooley would drive around town and deliver the newspaper himself, often with a friend in tow. Afterward, they’d stop somewhere to eat and have a few beers — favorite spots included Market Bar-B-Que and now-closed dive bars Arones and Stand Up Frank’s.
Dooley also wrote for the Veterans for Peace newsletter — a group he joined after retirement — and volunteered at MayDay Books, a leftist bookstore in Minneapolis.
Dooley was an avid reader, Edwards said. Though he didn’t attend college, he had a deep knowledge of history and politics built by devouring any book or newspaper he could get his hands on.
At the end of his life, a palliative care nurse asked Dooley about arrangements for after his death. As a veteran, he had the option of being buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
Dooley said no. He’d made other plans.
Nearly half a century before, he’d decided he didn’t want to be buried in a cemetery at all — instead, he’d signed up to have his body donated for research at the University of Minnesota.
Dooley is survived by children Mary Kay, Kevin, JoAnne, Terry and Todd, all of the Twin Cities area, and five grandchildren. At his request, a formal service will not be held.