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Early this year, Tom’s family and friends noticed subtle changes in his behavior. After a short time, Tom began experiencing some neurological issues such as difficulty with balance and extreme fatigue. After a battery of tests and a biopsy, Tom was diagnosed with grade IV glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive brain cancer.
Tom had surgery to remove a large tumor on April 8th. Although the surgery was considered a success for removing the encapsulated portion of the tumor, some cancer still remained and surgery left Tom permanently paralyzed on his left side and with some field vision loss.
Tom endured chemotherapy and radiation treatments to battle some remaining cancer. He tolerated the treatments well, and other than being extremely fatigued, Tom had few side effects.
However, the cancer returned with a vengeance. Another treatment was tried, but little progress was made.
On November 9, 2010, Tom passed away peacefully in the presence of his adored wife, Melanie, and son, Josh. He had just been prepared for bed. Josh was singing to him while Mom cuddled with him. Tom drew a final breath and gently slipped away.
Please join us to celebrate Tom’s life on Saturday, November 20th at 2:00pm at Irving Bible Church in Irving, TX
What a journey! From a neglected childhood spent in bars and strip clubs to a man with a happy marriage, loving family, and fulfilled Christian walk, few people fully epitomize a life so completely transformed more than our husband, Dad, Pappy, brother, uncle, and friend.
“Tom” Dooley was born George Patrick Dooley, Jr. January 18, 1947 in Chicago, IL to George and Rebecca Dooley, and he had an older sister, Patricia. Tom’s father ran a strip club. It was the destination for all of the family’s social events including Tom’s christening. Tom’s father was physically abusive to his wife and family, and when Tom’s mother finally fled to Cairo, IL, with at least one tooth knocked out, she opened her own strip club. Tom was frequently sent to live with other families, some related and some not. But when he was home, he was often left to fend for himself in the clubs, behind the bar, surrounded by topless women and drunks.
By his early teen years, he had a reputation for being a trouble maker. At the ripe old age of 12, the FBI was looking for him for check fraud, and he had been arrested for stealing cars. But, he had already chosen the perfect career – radio – and at 14, he dropped out of high school, went to radio school, and got his first radio job in Dyersburg, TN. After all, he would soon have his own family to care for. Tom married his first wife when they were both 16. At 17, Tom’s first daughter, Dana Lynn, was born. Four years later, a second child, Dione, was stillborn. Tom was divorced shortly after, but he was soon married and quickly divorced yet again.
During his late teens, Tom was already a top DJ in Louisville, KY. He was the leader of his own band, Tom Dooley and the Lovelights, with a regional hit, and he was living the life of a rock star – sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. And, unknown to him for 25 years, his second daughter, Lesley, was born when he was 21.
Tom’s radio career required him to live in many different cities, and by 1973 he was at WFIL in Philadelphia. It was there that he met Melanie, the love of his life, a young and seemingly innocent former Catholic school girl who worked part-time at promotional events for the radio station. They had a whirlwind courtship at R&B nightclubs and rock concerts. And, by the end of the year and much to the dismay of Melanie’s widowed mother, Tom and Melanie were married. They had their first baby girl, Kristin, later that year. In 1976, they were back in Louisville where Tom’s only son, Joshua, was born. But by 1978, God quietly directed them back to Philadelphia. This is where Tom’s baby girl, Elizabeth, was born.
It was in Lancaster, PA, outside of Philadelphia, where Tom and Melanie were invited to Christmas Eve dinner with their friend Wes Yoder’s Mennonite parents. The family was loving, gentle, and welcoming, and the evening was spent singing and fellowshipping. It was the first time they had witnessed Christianity in action without being preached to about the Four Spiritual Laws. During the car ride home from the Yoders’ that evening, Tom and Melanie prayed to receive Christ into their lives.
But, becoming a Christian did not change Tom overnight. Although he tried to be the Christian man he wanted to be, he was a product of his childhood, and it was difficult to balance his new Christian walk with the only world he’d ever known.
After their conversion, Tom went to a Christian bookstore to buy a copy of Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. The owners of the bookstore and soon to become lifelong friends, Ron and Cay Evans, invited Tom and Melanie to church where they became active members. Tom sought out other men that modeled a Godly life, and he also searched for ministries with whom he could work and learn from. He was the voice of several Billy Graham TV crusades and narrated a couple of Dr. Graham’s audio books.
In 1986, Tom’s sister, Patricia, needed a kidney donor. Their relationship was strained, yet she reluctantly asked Melanie to approach Tom about being a donor. He agreed without hesitation, as his one of his marked characteristics was his generosity to others. This was the first of many things that triggered the transformation of his character. Tom was now faced with his sister’s and his own mortality.
At home, Tom and Melanie’s marriage was on the rocks, and Melanie threatened to leave if they didn’t get help from marriage counseling. They found a sweet and gentle counselor in Floyd Sharp. Tom was ready to accept counsel, and he worked harder than he ever had to acknowledge and correct the mistakes he’d made. Tom learned to apologize. And more than that, he consciously changed his behavior. He no longer paid only lip service. He was becoming a new man. His relationships with his wife and family began to change. Within a year, the marriage was unrecognizable from the previous year, and they were on the path to renewal.
In the course of this transformation, he devoured books that would encourage and guide him to be the man he wanted to be. While Tom and Melanie would lie in bed at night, he would read passages aloud to her that he found inspirational. This is where the kernel of an idea began for a Christian radio show. His entire career until that point had been in Top 40 radio. As he grew in his walk with Christ, he grew in his desire to serve God with the talent with which he had been blessed. In 1989, Tom began the radio show, “The Journey with Tom Dooley”. It was a ministry of discipleship and encouragement using Christian literature with Christian music. God gave Tom this gift to allow him to use his talent to serve the Lord and others, and as a result, so many other people’s lives were also transformed by the words that he read and the music that was played.
More than anything, Tom loved and was interested in people. He longed to see the change in others’ lives that he had experienced in his own. Tom was blessed with many close, intimate friends. He cared about people and invested himself in his family and friends. Tom was a confidante and counselor to many.
Sadly for his beloved wife, family, and friends, Tom was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer in March of this year. On November 9, 2010, Tom passed away peacefully in the presence of his adored wife, Melanie, and son, Josh. He had just been prepared for bed. Josh was singing to him while Melanie cuddled with him. Tom drew a final breath and gently slipped away.
He never once complained about his diagnosis, and throughout several different treatments he remained positive and peaceful. His faith in God remained steadfast and never once faltered; and his inspiration and insight will be greatly missed.
His generosity continued even after death as Tom chose to donate his body for medical research. We hope one day that a cure for glioblastoma multiforme is found.