To all of you Dads out there, Happy Father's Day! I hope that you are enjoying today and the honor that it brings.
Today I would like to honor my own father, who sadly isn't with us anymore. My father was born to poor Irish immigrants who boarded a ship to America in 1913 shortly after getting married in Dublin. He was the sixth of seven children.
One day on his way home from school he heard he paperboys shout, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Lindbergh kidnapping ladder found in Bronx!" Eight year old Patrick Doyle ran the several blocks to 222nd Street and was awestruck by the clamor going on. Police and reporters were everywhere, all consumed with the biggest news of the year. The Crime of the Century had recently happened, when Col Charles Lindbergh's 18 month old son was kidnapped from their farm near Princeton, NJ., and now the police had found the ladder used to commit the awful crime in the garage of one Bruno Hauptmann.
Young Patrick was smitten with the reporters, all wearing fedoras with their press badges in the ribbon above the brim. They were shouting and writing in shorthand all the details the police chief passed on to them. Then off they ran to pay phones to call the details in to their respective newspapers - Hurst, Daily News, NY Times, The World, The Mirror, The Star, The Herald, and papers from New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
That was the day that little boy decided that he wanted to be a crime reporter someday and cover the biggest stories in the city. He saved money to buy a typewriter from a pawn shop and started out making a newsletter for the neighborhood merchants, being paid with groceries. Once he had a taste of the experience, there was no going back. He was hired by the NY Daily News in 1947 at 23 years old. From his first story about an abandoned baby to solving a murder, to airplane crashes, a policeman shot and dying in his arms, to Son of Sam to John Lennon's murder, he reported over 20,000 murders in his career. He was called Inspector Doyle. Robin Moore, a good friend, used his name in The French Connection. He was touted as The World's Greatest Crime Reporter, and won numerous awards in his career. He was even in the 1981 Guinness Book of World Records for covering the most murders. He knew five presidents, and had an especially nice relationship with Richard Nixon. His friends were James Cagney, Henry Ford II, Aristotle Onassis, and hundreds of others.
Dad at work, 1947 With VP Richard Nixon, 1956
But to me, he was my Daddy. He was 5'11, thin and had striking green eyes. When he wasn't sitting in front of a typewriter on the living room coffee table, pounding the keys, he was out doing the weekly grocery shopping. On Saturday nights he and my Mother would get all dressed up and head into the city sometime after 11pm. He was a handsome man, and I was so very proud of him. When he almost died because of ruptured stomach ulcers and spent 10 weeks in Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, I myself cried a million tears and said thousands of prayers. How could we not have Daddy anymore? He survived several surgeries, and thank God, he came home. I was just a child, and loved him more than I can write.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ Boat Basin 1963 Dad and I, 1972
As I grew up I understood his concern for our welfare. Plenty of times it was an annoyance answering the questions every time I wanted to go somewhere (where are you going, who are you going with, when are you coming home, how are you getting there) but he covered crime six nights a week and loved us tremendously and I believe it would have killed him if anything had happened to any one of us. I didn't always see it that way growing up, but being a parent I grew to see the sacrifices he made being the sole breadwinner for a family of seven.
My Dad died in a one-car accident on the last day of his job at NBC. He was going to be moving down to Austin, Texas where he had bought a beautiful home and my mother was waiting for him. He was only 62 years old when a seizure took his life. His funeral was beautiful. It was Veterans Day 1987, and the New York City Police Chief asked my Mother if she would like policemen for pall bearers. She was thrilled knowing how much the police meant to him. The hearse came up from the west side of Manhattan that chilly November 11th, passing through traffic lights all the way to Fifth Avenue where we circled around St. Patrick's Cathedral and came to a stop out front. The steps of the church were lined with policemen from different precincts in their dress blues, and once his flag-covered casket was removed from the hearse by six policemen, they all stood at attention and saluted. It was the most overwhelming moment in my life, one only surpassed by the birth of my daughter.
My favorite memory of him was him holding me while we sleigh rode down a hill in upstate NY in a cardboard box when I was about four years old.
I was so proud of him! He would speak to the students in my all-girl high school, and he would take me to Madison Square Garden and Broadway, and Yankee games. He worked hard on our house, nurturing gardens that brought him peace, away from the crime-ridden streets of lower New York. He was my hero. It is him on the cover of my first book, A Christmas I Remember. The story is, in a way, a tribute to him.