Editor’s note: On April 25, Christian Living Magazine lost one of its own, Dan Dougherty, who passed away unexpectedly. Dan started writing for the magazine following his retirement from teaching school in Caldwell for 40 years. His column, Outdoors with Dougherty, was a favorite with readers (and the editor, too). His brother Tom asked if he might write a tribute to Dan — and of course, we said yes.
My brother Dan meant the world to me. Though he was 5½ years older than me, we were very close. Even when I moved away for nine years we talked frequently on the phone. Our parents and oldest two brothers were pastors and Dan was a school teacher. I wanted to be like him; I headed into elementary education because I watched how happy he was teaching. I didn’t want to be a pastor like the rest of my family; I wanted to follow in Dan’s steps. He stayed home through college and so lived with our parents until he got married. We spent hours playing basketball and plastic baseball together and living under the incredible influence of our mom and dad. We grew up together loving Jesus and helping our folks in ministry.
After spending three years heading towards elementary education, I was asked to work with junior high boys at a camp. During that week we were able to lead all the boys to Jesus and it was then I felt the tugging of my heart to be a minister. I tried arguing with God. “Lord, I don’t want to be like the rest of my family,” I’d say. “I want to teach like Dan.” The Lord made it very clear: my path had changed.
Dan became a huge supporter of my ministry. He would call me often while I lived in Vancouver, Wash. and ask me how the church was doing. He made me feel so valuable. What a joy it was to get called back to Idaho to spend the last 31 years with my brother. He started attending our church and became my greatest cheerleader. The church was very small — 50-60 regular attendees. The church allowed me to substitute teach for a couple years to help make a living. I subbed for Dan and other teachers at East Canyon Elementary School. I found out quickly how respected Dan was as a teacher. When I subbed for him, the kids wanted to know if I could tell stories like him. I said no. Dan was the master storyteller; he captivated his students and cared deeply for them. As the church grew, I could no longer sub.
My brother supported me with everything he had. Typical Dan. When he believed in something he was its greatest supporter. He told everybody that his little brother was on the radio and was chaplain for the Idaho House of Representatives. I had Dan on my radio show numerous times, and he so loved that; and he went with me on occasion to the statehouse, too.
The depth of Dan’s love for his incredible wife Peggy was amazing. She was a God-send. Her love for Jesus and for sports and travel and good food was perfect. They were so happy together. My wife and I were fortunate to share Boise State football season tickets with Dan and Peggy and to travel with them often. He loved her family as his own. Her parents became his parents. He helped raise her 5-year-old son, Jakoub, and walked with him through life. Dan was immensely proud of his two sons, James and David, and would often tell me of their accomplishments in the workforce. He loved and supported all his grandchildren.
As I’m writing this, James texted me and said the following about his dad:
“He demonstrated the behaviors a faithful father should and conscripted my heart through his actions. I’ve not always been as disciplined, selfless, or carefree as he was, but his example set a chain of events that ultimately influenced how I parent and where my heart goes when a storm rolls in. His legacy is underwritten by this and the other lives he influenced through similar actions as a genuine advocate of everybody he met.”
Peggy, James, David, Jakoub and all his family will always be grateful for this passionate man of God with a selfless heart.
I could talk forever and tell you so many stories, but will close with this. Dan’s life was so fulfilled when he was asked to write for Christian Living Magazine about outdoor life activities. Sandy Jones gave him an opportunity to share with you stories of real life in the world of hunting, fishing and travel. Dan would carry magazines wherever he went and give them to people. He was so proud to be a part of a magazine that is a good read and that has a positive influence on the Treasure Valley. It was a no-brainer after his passing to have memorial gifts go to his passion, this magazine. After retiring after 40 years of touching students’ lives, he could breathe the joy of life into thousands of readers.
I miss my brother so much, but he is one happy camper, living in the presence of his and our Almighty God.
Tom Dougherty is pastor at Cloverdale Church of God in Boise.