Kenneth ‘Mike’ Dooley, cop who sought headstones for slain officers, dies at 65
BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @suntimesobits July 31, 2013 7:54PM
Chicago Police Detective Mike Dooley (right) joins Barbara Johnson (left), H.R. Richardson and Heather Johnson at the unveiling of a new tombstone for Cornelius Wilson on April 29, 2003, in Campbellsville, Ky. Wilson, the first African- American Chicago Police officer killed in the line of duty, was killed in a shootout with robbery suspects in 1919. | AP file photo
Updated: September 3, 2013 7:13AM
It wasn’t right, Mike Dooley thought. There were Chicago police officers, killed in the line of duty, who were buried in unmarked graves, “lying in complete anonymity, in mud,” he told a friend.
So Mr. Dooley, a detective with the youth division of the Chicago Police Department, made it his mission to see that they received headstones or that their broken headstones were replaced. He helped collect funds and drummed up interest in the cause.
He became an unofficial historian for the police department, visiting graveyards and tracking down living relatives of officers slain on the job — “and he did that on his own time,” said former police Supt. Phil Cline.
“He thought that these people deserved recognition for what they did. They gave up their lives,” said his wife, Sandy Dooley. “They went from cemetery to cemetery, and what they did was make sure the police officers who were killed in the line of duty had a headstone, and it was in good shape.”
Chicago’s Gast Monuments provided more than 50 monuments, either free or at reduced rates, said Jay Cunningham, a Gast designer. The headstones were delivered to graves as far away as Kentucky and Ohio, Mr. Dooley’s wife said.
“He went all over the country,” said Dave MacFarlan, a retired youth division investigator who worked on the effort.
Mr. Dooley and his co-workers often arranged for local sheriff’s police officers to escort them to the ceremonies to install the monuments, along with the Pipes and Drums band of the Chicago Police Department.
In 2003, band member John Ryan, a retired member of the police SWAT team, accompanied Mr. Dooley to Campbellsville, Ky., to play the bagpipes at a ceremony to honor Cornelius Wilson, Chicago’s first African-American officer killed in the line of duty. He migrated to Chicago for work but was killed in a shootout with robbery suspects in 1919.
“We were honored to be part of this. You think about police officers who sacrificed their lives for us,” Ryan said. Mr. Dooley helped track down a niece and nephew who attended the service, along with 150 others. “They were in awe.”
Mr. Dooley, 65, died July 7 at Lakeview Nursing and Rehabilitation Center from complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2000, he told the Chicago Sun-Times his research into police history was “a labor of love.”
Mr. Dooley and fellow officers sent out 700 letters to officers whose surnames were the same as those who were killed in line of duty. They asked cemeteries to forward letters to families, and they visited graveyards.
“He was going to the libraries, and that was the days before you had ProQuest,” MacFarlan said. “He had miles and miles of microfiche.”
To obtain headstones, Mr. Dooley would drop by Gast Monuments on Peterson Avenue, with cookies and doughnuts from Dinkel’s Bakery in hand. “He was old-school in that way, very charming,” Cunningham said.
In 2007, when the Haymarket Memorial was being refurbished, he helped track down relatives of the police killed at Haymarket Square during 1886 labor unrest. A bombing and gunfire killed seven officers and wounded 59 — still the most devastating day in Chicago police history.
“We were interested in the old morgue books,” MacFarlan said. “We managed to find the Haymarket entries and [former Cook County Medical Examiner Edmond] Donoghue had his worker copy the pages and bring it to the office. They were the official records. It said the names of the officers who were killed.”
Some of their research wound up in the book “End of Watch” co-authored by Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th).
Mr. Dooley attended St. Gregory High School and earned a bachelor’s from Northeastern Illinois University, master’s degrees from Chicago State and Loyola universities and a doctorate in philosophy from Loyola. He taught criminal justice at Wright Junior College.
He joined the department in the early 1970s and worked in neighborhood relations, as a youth division detective and as an Officer Friendly. He also taught Spanish at the police academy in the 1970s, when Spanish-speaking officers were few.
He enjoyed the music of 19th century Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, and travel. In Egypt, “He went to the Valley of the Kings, and that’s where we saw King Tut’s tomb,” his wife said. He also visited Hawaii, London, Mexico, Paris and Rome and the Panama Canal. “He always wanted to see the locks on the Panama Canal,” she said.
In 1972, he lost his 16-year-old brother. He had coached Daniel in CYO football at Paul Revere Park, but after an injury on the field, Daniel died of an undetected ruptured spleen. Doctors didn’t catch it, and Daniel had begged to go back and play. “I know my parents took it bad, and ‘Mick’ took it real bad, because he was the coach,” said Mr. Dooley’s brother, Pat, a member of the Chicago Fire Department.
“He was a good family man,” his brother said. “Outside of the police department, everything revolved around his family.”
In addition to his wife and brother, he is survived by his daughters, Laura Dooley-Taylor and Sharon Rusk, and his grandson, Liam. Services were held.