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Mar 13

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Marygrove College is the proud recipient of a new scholarship for students who demonstrate exceptional dedication to advancing our community and enhancing our surrounding neighborhood through leadership—the kind of leadership that is founded in the mission of the institution. The Quigley- Doherty Family Endowed Scholarship will be presented at the Honors Convocation on March 24 in honor of Mary Catherine and David J. Doherty by their five children. Throughout their 48-year marriage, the couple dedicated their lives to service to others, and shared their faith and belief in community with all who knew them. 

After almost a decade of caring for their parents, Kathleen Doherty and her four brothers, Mike, Jim, John and Joe, spent a great deal of time cleaning out the family home to prepare it for sale. Kathleen couldn’t help but reminisce about the exceptional upbringing she and her four brothers were fortunate to receive.

Evidence of that fact was found throughout the home, in virtually every room: old photographs, letters, and mementos brought back memories and thoughts of childhood games, birthday parties, graduations and family weddings that will be filed away in her mind forever. One of the most curious things she discovered, over and over again, were keys—many, many keys in all shapes and sizes—neatly tucked in the backs of drawers and in cupboards.

Puzzled by the new collection that was forming, Kathleen soon realized that these keys did not belong to the Doherty family. These were the keys that opened the doors of homes of many neighbors through the years who had left them in the care of her mother, the neighborhood caretaker, the trusted friend. When the children were young, Mary always took the time to help neighbors when they left on vacation to feed the cat, or water the houseplants; whatever needed to be done. Later on, as the children grew, Kathleen recalled that neighbors would enlist the help of the Doherty children, too, to collect the mail or newspaper when they were out of town.

“We would feel so proud to get these “jobs,” but we often could not completely fulfill our obligations; Mom would always have to step in because of Girl Scouts or hockey practice or homework,” Kathleen remembers. “She never complained—it’s something that she did that just came naturally to her.”

“She was the neighborhood,” Kathleen adds, “each of us learned by her example that you help your neighbors –it was understood; it is the spirit of community that both of our parents felt very strongly about.” For Kathleen and her four brothers, that sense of responsibility continues on.

Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread. –William Stafford

Dave and Mary were married in 1963 in Detroit. Theirs was a love story firmly rooted in the Catholic faith, a foundation that served them well in the raising of five successful children. Mary’s sister, Marygrove College alum Carol Ann Quigley, IHM, ‘63 was and continues to be a source of pride for the family. A champion of Marygrove’s founding Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary-driven mission and vision, Dave served as Chairman on the Marygrove College Board of Trustees and was conferred the College’s honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters in 1992. Dave Doherty was also a prominent community activist, educator and administrator in both the Flint and Detroit areas, and served as a Vice-President of Kettering University for over 25 years. “Dad’s focus was the community at large, while Mom covered the immediate neighborhood.” Kathleen says. “They were a great team.”

In the early years, Dave’s position required social commitments that necessitated help with their growing family. Mary found assistance in the capable hands of Barbara “Barb” Brooks, a single mother who had relocated from the South and was working odd jobs to support her children. The women became friends, and Mary would help Barb by “smoothing out some of the rough spots” from time to time. Barb never forgot the kindness.

During their thirty-year relationship, Barb quietly revered Mary and Dave as her friends, never knowing she would have an important opportunity to help them when the subtle signs of dementia slowly took over their lives.

As Kathleen and her brothers were contemplating how to best care for their parents, Barb stepped in, offering her service as the couple’s primary caregiver. Her loving gift meant that Mary and Dave’s children could keep their jobs and focus on raising their young families without worry. Their parents needed full-time care from someone they knew and trusted, since doctors emphasize the importance of offering consistent, “common threads” for Alzheimer’s patients (and their families) to hold on to as their memories fade. Because of her commitment for many loving and dutiful years, the Doherty children consider Barb their “family angel.”

Barb helped care for Mary and Dave five days a week. She sang with them, she laughed with them and she cried with them. Barb became an important key that unlocked the past for Mary and Dave, maybe only for an hour at a time or a few precious moments—but it was therapeutic for everyone. Barb kept things as normal as possible in their routine, and allowed them to stay together with the dignity they deserved.

“Barb was their ‘normal,’” Kathleen said, “There was no other explanation for her extraordinary service than her simple desire to give back for the times my mother helped her through the years.” It was a devotion that exceeds mere gratitude. It is a love and respect that is very special, and something the family would like to acknowledge. But since the peaceful passing of David and Mary in 2011, Barb is no longer just a friend of the family. She is family.

Barbara will be present at the Marygrove College Honors Convocation when the Quigley-Doherty family is recognized for their generous scholarship, endowed for one talented, hard-working student each year. The Quigley-Doherty Family Endowed Scholarship is given in the spirit of community that Mary and David inspired in their children, and many others along the way. The scholarship will help open doors for community-minded students—one of the many keys that lead to a brighter future. The legacy continues.

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