December 2, 1960 - Dr. Dooley writes letter to Fr. Hesburgh

Dr. Thomas A. Dooley, Dr. America, was a student at Notre Dame in 1944 and then again in 1946. In 1945 he had enlisted in the Navy's Corpsman Program, he would be stationed at a naval hospital in New York for the year. Dooley would enroll at the St. Louis University School of Medicine and then rejoined the Navy. While with the Navy, he served in Vietnam and Laos at medical hospitals. After leaving the Navy in 1956, he returned to Southeast Asia to continue his work.

While laying ill with cancer in a hospital bed in Hong Kong, Dr. Dooley would pen a letter to Father Hesburgh. In his letter, Dr. Dooley reflects ack to the Grotto at Notre Dame. Following Dooley's death in January of 1961, many copies were distributed by the press.

In gratitude for Dr. Dooley's work in Southeast Asia, he was posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal. President Kennedy would also reference Dooley's work when forming the Peace Corps. Father Hesburgh had a copy of the letter engraved in steel and commissioned, it currently resides in a box near the Grotto. The Alumni Association gives out an award in Dr. Dooley's name.

Full Letter to Father Hesburgh by Dr. Tom Dooley
(Excerpt below)
Dr. Tom Dooley Statue at Notre Dame Grotto
Dear Father Hesburgh,

They've got me down. Flat on the Back . . . with plaster, sand bags and hot water bottles. It took the last three instruments to do it however. I've contrived a way of pumping the bed up a bit so that, with a long reach, I can get to my typewriter . . . my mind . . . my brain . . . my fingers.

Two things prompt this note to you, sir. The first is that whenever my cancer acts up . . . and it is certainly "acting up" now, I turn inward a bit. Less do I think of my hospitals around the world, or of 94 doctors, fund raising and the like. More do I think of one divine Doctor, and my own personal fund of grace. Is it enough?

But just now . . . and just so many times, how I long for the Grotto. Away from the Grotto Dooley just prays. But at the Grotto, especially now when there must be snow everywhere and the lake is ice glass and that triangular fountain on the left is frozen solid and all the priests are bundled in their too-large too-long old black coats and the students wear snow boots . . . if I could go to the Grotto now then I think I could sing inside. I could be full of faith and poetry and loveliness and know more beauty, tenderness and compassion. This is soggy sentimentalism I know. Cold prayers from a hospital bed are just as pleasing to God as more youthful prayers from a Grotto on the lid of night.

So Father Hesburgh, Notre Dame is twice on my mind . . . and always in my heart. That Grotto is the rock to which my life is anchored. Do the students ever appreciate what they have, while they have it? I know I never did. Spent most of my time being angry at the clergy at school . . . . . 10 P.M. bed check, absurd for a 19 year old veteran, etc., etc., etc.

Won't take any more of your time, did just want to communicate for a moment, and again offer my thanks to my beloved Notre Dame. Though I lack a certain buoyancy in my bones just now, I lack none in my spirit. I must return to the states very soon, and I hope to sneak into that Grotto . . . . before the snow has melted.

My best wishes to the students, regards to the faculty, and respects to you.

Very Sincerely,

Tom Dooley

Keywords: dr tom dooley, father hesburgh, grotto, alumni association, president kennedy, navy, peace corps

Posted On: 2011-12-02 03:15:00 by IrishTrpt07


      Were you there? Have more to add? Leave a comment and let us know!

   Posted By: Mary Frances Duffy at 2014-10-16 15:15:45[#2]
I have been an admirer of Dr. Thomas Dooley since first discovering his book, Deliver Us from Evil,in a book store in Philadelphia, Pa in 1959 or 1960. In the summer of 1960 I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Dr. Dooley at a hotel in Philadelphia. Almost had the privilege of meeting him, but his security detail escorted him from the stage. To my deep regret, I was the next person in line to meet him but was denied the opporltunity. Upon arriving home that evening, I burst into tears because of the lost encounter with \\\"my hero.\\\" My parents thought that something terrible had happened to me. As far as I was concerned, it had indeed. I continue to admire him in memory and have come to believe that he is a noble and worthy candidate for beatification and canonization in the Roman Catholic Church. Everything I know about him suggests that he was, truly, a saintly man. Hopefully, we will meet merrily in heaven. Surely, he rests in joy and peace.
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   Posted By: Bro. Patrick Foley, O. P. at 2014-04-06 11:50:23[#1]
It was a great letter Dr. Tom Dooley wrote Father Hesburgh.

I have great admiration to Doctor Tom Dooley. He as a great man who did great work for people.
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