James Joseph Dolan 1927 to 2013

by Lian on February 12, 2013


On behalf of my sisters and brothers, I’m deeply saddened to announce the death of our father James Joseph Dolan. He passed away peacefully on February 11th in Dallas surrounded by his family. He was 85 years old.

My father was a participant of life, soaking in experiences, words and emotions and inviting others to join with him in the adventure. He loved Flannery O’Connor, Neil Diamond and the Clancy Brothers. He knew about philosophy and history and science. He’d zip into New York for the afternoon to see a show, buy a good tie or try a new restaurant. He started running in the 70s and never stopped moving. He saw the Taj Mahal at sunset and sailed to Europe many times. He appeared on stage at the Metropolitan Opera in Aida with Leontyne Price. (As he would say, ‘”True story.”) He was in the chorus and she was the star, but they both had their names in the program on Opening Night.

My father was storyteller of great skill and enthusiasm, playing fast and loose with the facts for the sake of a great punch line or a dramatic moment. My father never would have succeeded half so well in this age of instant fact-check and Google on every Smartphone. His tales of Glen Miller playing at his high school prom, running into Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller shopping on Christmas Eve and seeing The Beatles in Berlin before their appearance on Ed Sullivan benefitted from hyperbole and a few outright lies. But we didn’t care; we simply enjoyed the stories.

More than anything, though, my father lived his life with a generosity of spirit. Family and friends knew of his unquestioning loyalty, warmth and kindness.  So did others who benefitted from his work on various organizations and boards, from the Boys and Girls Club to the Rotary Club. He was devoted to his church, serving many years as a lecture with his booming voice and to his alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross. But mainly, he was devoted to people, his people. As my cousin wrote to me this morning, “Your father was a real gentleman.

For many years, my father had a quote up in his study from W.B. Yeats:

We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.


Still water. Beings gather. Fiercer life. I must have read it hundreds of times, trying to understand its meaning fully, but I think I might now. As any family who has been through Alzheimer’s knows, it’s a dark, twisted and terrifying journey for both the patient and the family with a mind working at million miles an hour but in all the wrong ways.


But yesterday was different, my sister Julie tells me. He was quiet. Still. No doubt beings gathered.


What a gift. And a fitting way to end his fierce life.



chris d. February 14, 2013 at 7:51 AM

Dear Dolan Family,

I offer my warmest condolences to all of you.

I will observe stillness today as I go about my tasks, and will remember.

The Yeats quote is simple but profound. worded awkwardly??
Stillness reflects back how one is seen by others, of course its not a literal image as seen in clear water..your dad is a gift, has left his shining mark on the world. People have seen the best in themselves when reflected back from his bright stillness of heart and soul..no one knows that better than your family.

Its comforting to know he found peace before birth to new life. His last months have been sorrowful for him and all of you.

He and Edna are together for Valentine’s day with funny stories and lots of stillness of soul, and hearts full of deep love …that is what I want to believe.
They belong together.

Blessed regards to all the sisters and extended family.

chris d.

Lesley February 13, 2013 at 12:41 PM

Lian, Liz, Julie, Monica, Sheila, and the Dolan family,

Oh, Sisters! I cannot imagine the loss you must feel, but know that you are thought of warmly and often right now and have been over the past difficult months. How precious and fleeting our lives are…

Lian, your tributes to both Jim and Edna are beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. What beautiful people, with wonderful lives, and children and family who cared for them so deeply.

T. Smith February 13, 2013 at 5:02 AM

What a beautiful tribute. Too much sadness in a short period of time. Wishing peace and comfort to the Dolan family.

CLSD OPEN February 12, 2013 at 10:23 PM

Dear Lian, Sisters & the entire Dolan Family, I’m so sorry for the great loss you are experiencing with your father’s passing. What a beautiful tribute you’ve written, Lian – your dad sounds like the kind of person we’d all benefit from knowing and having in our lives. I’ve been feeling blue for all of you since you lost your mom in November, and am just heartbroken at all you have all gone through this past year, and now losing your dad. May you find peace knowing that your mom and dad are back together, looking out for all of you. And the love and pride they must feel for all of you.

I will work to find some stillness in my own life. What a lovely thought that is. And no doubt welcome in such a hurried world.

My wish for all of you is that you can find hope and peace in little ways in the days to come.

Much love,
Chris xo

Jennifer February 12, 2013 at 7:43 PM

My thoughts go to your family – how hard to lose both parents so soon.

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