Larry Dohey was a lot of things to a lot of people — archivist, historian, storyteller, culturist, researcher, public speaker, family man and dear friend.
But to one man, he was everything.
“It so sad,” Dohey’s husband, Ian Martin, said in a soft, quivering voice Wednesday, hours after Dohey’s sudden passing.
Dohey, 59 — well-known and respected archivist at The Rooms and the facility’s director of programming and public engagement — died early Wednesday after suffering a brain aneurism Monday night.
Dohey was the guest speaker at an event at the Star of the Sea Hall in Placentia, where dozens of Irish visitors and more than 100 local people gathered to celebrate the Newfoundland-Irish connection.
According to his family, halfway through his speech, Dohey began slurring his words and couldn’t continue. He was taken to Placentia Health Centre and transported to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s. He died at about 3 a.m. Wednesday.
“He never believed in saying no to people … He gave fully of his time.” — Ian Martin
Immediately after the news was made public, condolences poured in to the family, as people from across the world expressed shock and grief for a man who was full of life and considered a bright light to the province.
Martin and Dohey were married six years ago and were together 27 years. While it’s a personal loss for him, Martin was quick to divert attention to Dohey and what he meant to others.
“He was just so kind to everyone …,” said Martin, who pointed out how Dohey helped so many people, from students to politicians. “He never believed in saying no to people … He gave fully of his time.”
Martin said Dohey’s name appears on countless books, plays, thesis papers and other literary works.
“Everything he did, including his work and all his volunteer work, was a way to celebrate Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “He thought every Newfoundlander was an ambassador to the province. He wanted everyone to know what a wonderful place this is.”
Dohey grew up in St. Bride’s, where he was one of 13 children — seven girls and six boys — born to Clement Dohey, who died in 2017, and Loretta (Nash) Dohey, who died in 2014.
Dohey’s younger brother, Fr. Wayne Dohey, said the family is devastated, but is thankful for all the support.
He and Larry were particularly close, since the two were just two years apart in age and both lived in the St. John’s metro area.
“Larry would often say we’re responsible for anyone (in the family) inside and the girls were responsible for outside the overpass,” said Fr. Dohey said with a chuckle.
“But Larry was the balance. He was the go-to guy … He was the anchor in the family ... a great protector …
“He loved to sit in high-end company and dine, but could also sit and have a drink with the fishermen …
“And he had a great passion for Newfoundland and loved his work.”
Before Larry Dohey began work at The Rooms in 2010, he was the director and staff archivist for the archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s and director of the Basilica Museum and Library (1993-2010).
Dohey was also the author of the online blog "Archival Moments," reflecting his interest in the archival history of Newfoundland and Labrador, and co-host of a regular weekly radio program – "Archival Moments" on 590 VOCM.
At the local level, he served as president of the Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Archivists (1995-1999) and from 2003-2006, he was a member of the board of directors of Destination St. John’s, the Victoria Park Foundation, the Irish Newfoundland Association and a former vice-president of the Newfoundland Historical Society, the oldest historical group in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Anne Chafe, The Rooms’ executive director of museums and galleries, was emotional as she spoke of Dohey.
“I’m in shock this morning,” she said. “It’s hard to process.”
Chafe said Dohey took great joy in speaking about the province’s history and loved to talk to visitors about it.
“He was such a character and story teller and wanted to share his pride of the province with everybody. He made connections with so many people,” she said.
“Larry was one of a kind. His in-depth knowledge and social ability, his strong desire to put himself out there and championing our history was incredible.”
Chafe said Dohey always “had a spring in his step” and would love to sing as he went about his day.
“He loved life and was always so happy …,” she said. “He was just such a strong, unique individual.”
When asked what Dohey meant to her, Chafe paused and, choking back tears, said, “He was a dear friend and colleague. I’ll miss him.”
Retired RCMP communications officer turned-author Helen Escott worked closely with Dohey while writing her latest book, “Operation Vanished.” He was also helpful in offering historical depictions, and he inspired a character in the book, Larry Morgan.
“I was gutted to hear he had died … I really can’t believe he’s gone …,” said Escott, who saw Dohey last week at her book launch.
“He was such a big personality… No one can replace him. Nobody can fill his shoes. There will never be another Larry Dohey … What an incredible loss.”
Many took the social media to express their condolences.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball tweeted, “Larry Dohey was a true steward of Newfoundland and Labrador history, culture and lore. His passion and knowledge for our heritage will be greatly missed by so many. I offer my sincerest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues; Larry was a wonderful person.”
Tourism and Culture Minister Christopher Mitchelmore said Dohey left a mark on this province.
“A true ambassador of our province, he loved sharing tidbits of the past, its magical stories and turning them into treasured experiences at The Rooms,” he said.
In a Facebook post, former politician and business manager George Murphy said Dohey had a way of getting everyone excited about our past.
“History can be spoken, but never could anyone put such ‘sense’ to it such as Larry Dohey could,” Murphy said. “He was pretty much the only person in recent times who could make you feel the history of this place.”
Dohey will be resting at Caul’s Funeral Home, 84 LeMarchant Rd., on Saturday and Sunday, 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. The funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, Military Road.