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Larry Dohey could certainly fill a room — as if to prove that point, his funeral filled one of the largest rooms in the city, leaving standing room only for 300 people at the back of the Basilica of St. John the Baptist on Monday.
The side galleries were full, the pews below were packed, and when a hymn began, the combined voices were awe-inspiring.
Dohey died last week at the age of 59 — he suffered a brain aneurism while he was appearing at an event in Placentia.
The estimated 3,000 mourners no doubt knew Dohey in many different ways: as a well-known archivist, a historian, storyteller, culturalist, researcher and public speaker.
His official position was as the well-known and respected archivist at The Rooms, along with being the facility’s director of programming and public engagement, a position that was particularly apt. He did public engagement like few could; he was a constant presence at cultural events, the founder of “Archival Moments,” familiar to many through his radio and other public appearances stressing the variety of engaging elements in the history of this province.
He always took the time to spot a lost soul in a crowded room, make his way over with an introduction, and gently prise a stranger out of his or her shell.
All of it was done with a keen sense of humour. You can imagine Dohey smiling as he pressed “Send” to email countless journalists in the province a snippet on the profession’s bad manners in the past. That Archival Moment included a letter to the editor in The Evening Telegram written by Eye Witness, complaining about the Reporters Room in the basement of the Colonial Building: “Now, Mr. Editor can this be wondered at when it is well known that the Reporters Room has been used, not so much for quietness, in getting up their reports, as for smoking, drinking and card playing, ‘draw poker’ in particular, some members of the Assembly and even outsiders, entering into the spirit of such doings.”
Plenty has been said about Dohey’s vast knowledge and his endless pursuit of new information; he traded stories like Grade 5 boys used to trade hockey cards. The most common refrain heard after his sudden death? “Larry? But I was just talking to him…”
Behind that precise memory and incredible curiosity lay what was arguably Dohey’s greatest asset, and one that should be celebrated, especially given his love of fleshing out the full story of lives in this province.
Dohey was truly a kind, kind man.
That can’t be said enough, or mirrored enough in our own behaviour. He always took the time to spot a lost soul in a crowded room, make his way over with an introduction, and gently prise a stranger out of his or her shell.
He was kind and caring every time you met him — a rare person indeed.
To his husband, Ian Martin and family, we send our deepest regret.
This place could do with many, many more like Larry.