Cover photo for James "Jim" Dooley's Obituary
James "Jim" Dooley Profile Photo

James "Jim" Dooley

September 27, 1958 — January 21, 2024


James "Jim" Dooley

Our hearts have broken; James “Jim” Dooley has passed away at age 65. Jim was beloved father to Michael Dooley, grandfather to Korra Dooley, brother to Patricia Dooley McWilliams, and uncle to Joan and Rose McWilliams.

Jim was a lifelong union activist, passionate Irishman, and zealous devotee of the Eagles and all teams Philly, with a brilliant, voracious intellect and the soul of a poet.   

Born to Joan and Francis Dooley, Jim grew up in the Grays Ferry neighborhood of South Philadelphia, a working class Irish-Italian-German-American enclave. There, Jim’s family owned Pat Dooley’s Bar on the corner of 26th and Morris. As a boy, Jim spent many afternoons and evenings doing his homework or watching sports in the bar, soaking in the tales and woes of the neighborhood characters. And each of those characters had a nickname they were known by in the neighborhood. In fact, Jim himself had nicknames through his childhood and youth: Slugger and the “absent minded professor.”

As an elementary school student, he attended St. Aloysius down the street from his home. As a cherubic toddler, Jim was named “Mr. Vare” by the Vare rec center across the street from where his family lived. Jim loved to swim, and play baseball and basketball throughout his childhood.

Later, Jim transferred for middle and high school to William Penn Charter, a private Quaker school in Philadelphia. During high school, Jim also worked with his father in another bar the family owned, called Fishtown Ice Company, located in the Fishtown neighborhood along the Delaware River in the eastern part of Philadelphia.

As a young adult, Jim attended Temple University in Philadelphia, fascinated by radio, television and film, as well as English literature and journalism. As a union firebrand, he graduated from the George Meaney Center for Labor Studies, now called the National Labor College.

Jim was an early investor and volunteer at House of Our Own Books—originally a leftist bookstore in Philadelphia. He loved listening to the older customers arguing the finer points of socialist doctrine—sometimes for hours—in the store. Jim was an active member of the Democratic Socialists of America through the 1990’s, naming his son after DSA founding member and co-leader, Michael Harrington.

For over twenty years, Jim worked as a police dispatcher in Philadelphia. In that role he was an activist member of AFSCME District Council 33, serving as a shop steward and strike captain. He also wrote award winning articles for the Local 1637 newsletter, Talkin’ Union. For a brief period, he took leave from his dispatching job to work as an AFSCME organizer in Indiana.

There was rarely a picket line or social justice demonstration where Jim wasn’t present, always holding a sign, always shouting with the crowd. He made sure to represent with his attire too, taking pride in wearing shirts and jackets with union (and Philly sports team) logos.

After moving to Seattle, Jim began working for the Washington State Ferries, ultimately settling at the Fauntleroy Terminal. He was an active member of the Inlandboatmen’s Union, volunteering as a Steward and Master Steward for the IBU over the last fifteen years. Jim also served as Chair of the Union Defense Committee, as Terminal Department Rep on recent WSF bargaining committees, Vice-Chair of the Puget Sound Executive Committee and IBU delegate to the King County Labor Council since 2016. He was recently elected as a Puget Sound Delegate to the union’s National and International Conventions.

In recent years, Jim rediscovered Catholicism, finding inspiration and solace in a deepening faith and church rituals and canons.

Amid such a rich life, Jim delighted in curling up with a book, preferably while listening to music and watching a movie on TV—all at the same time. Irish history, political analysis, poetry, and literature were fuel for his curious mind. But perhaps his deepest joy came from finding activities of all sorts to explore with his adored son Michael and granddaughter Korra. They were the lights of his life.

Jim has passed, but he is alive in our hearts. As his cherished author James Joyce wrote, “There is no past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present.”

A Funeral Mass for Jim will be held at St. James Cathedral in Seattle on Monday, February 19th at 12:10 pm. Jim will then travel to Philadelphia to be buried at Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery in Springfield, Pennsylvania with his parents on Friday February 23rd at 1:00pm. An Irish wake will also be held to celebrate Jim’s life in Seattle on Monday February 19th

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Past Services

Graveside Service

Friday, February 23, 2024

Starts at 1:00 pm (Eastern time)

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