Philip M. Doherty, 85, of East Moline, passed away Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015, at Trinity Rock Island due to complications from a recent stroke.
His Irish immigrant parents arrived in America in 1929, just in time for the Great Depression, so Philip Michael Doherty was born in Manhattan’s Lower East Side on May 29, 1930. His father couldn’t read or write, and his mother had an eighth-grade education. Philip had a hardscrabble childhood but managed, through sheer force of will, to pull himself up and out through the education he received first at St. Meinrad’s Seminary and later, after Korea, at Marian College in Indianapolis and Penn State (where he received a master’s degree in German).
He was 20 when he was drafted into the Korean War and through some glitch went through basic training twice. After that, three times he received orders to report to the front lines in Korea and all three times they were cancelled. He often told the story of Sgt. Johnson, the battalion commander he trained with, finding him after the war and telling him that almost the entire platoon had been ambushed and nearly everyone was killed. Philip often wondered aloud why he was spared, and when his children would say, “Uh, probably to have US,” he would laugh.
Instead of dodging bullets on the front lines, he spent most his time in Karlsruhe, Germany, where he was a sergeant. He spent a great deal of time with the Muellers, a German family “assigned" to him in a program that matched America GIs with local families. He was quick to learn German and fell in love with the locals, the language, the country, and the beer. He was so taken with it that he became an associate professor of German first at Notre Dame, then Loyola, and later settled in Moline, where he was the German teacher at Moline High School for almost 30 years.
After he retired from MHS, he was heavily involved in local musical theater at the Quad-City Music Guild. He taught himself to tap dance, and like everything else in his life, he kept at it until he was great at it.
He was a wonderful storyteller, played the guitar, piano, and accordion and sang. He was scholarly, and when his kids were quite young he introduced them to Kant’s Categorical Imperatives, Beethoven, Mozart and Thomas Aquinas. He loved philosophical conversations and collected books by all the great thinkers. He peppered his conversation with snippets from Rilke, Goethe, Aristotle and Aquinas.
He had a quick and wonderful sense of humor. One of his favorite "jokes" to pull involved teaching his kids how to sneak out of a restaurant without paying. "Now, kids," he'd say softly, "we're going to sneak out one by one through the kitchen. Quietly. And then meet at the car. Got it?" To him it was hilariously funny, and it was judged a huge success if the manager came out and hovered around the table.
He hated sports but loved PDQ Bach, Monty Python, the TV show “Soap,” target shooting, and Blatz beer. He played German folk music in the background almost all the time on reel-to-reel tape recorders he “borrowed” from MHS, and when he took his family camping in their pop-up Starcraft camper. He often sang folk songs in German (and English) around the campfire every night and made everyone join in.
He leaves behind four children, Colleen Romanelli, Pamela Ramos, Sheila (Mike) Mattly and Phil Doherty as well as four grandchildren, Branden Engleking, Marisa and Karina Ramos and Nicolas Mattly, and one great-grandchild. Philip was preceded in death by his son, Richard, beloved wife Anna, his three younger brothers and his grandson, Gabe Mattly.