PITTSFIELD -- Paul Dowd, who died Monday afternoon in North Carolina, pitched for the home team, and, quite frankly, he never stopped.
Drafted by the Boston Red Sox from Ferris State College in his home state of Michigan, he came to Pittsfield in the late 1960s to work at his craft at the Double A minor league level. A half-century later he was still pitching for the home team.
Dowd, who in recent years had put up a valiant fight against ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease, served on the City Council, ran unsuccessfully for mayor and was a huge advocate for youth athletics. The biggest feather in his civic cap, however, was his 30 years as president of the Berkshire County Jimmy Fund.
Dowd died Monday in the early afternoon at the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina. He waged his battle against ALS longer than family, friends and medical staff could have imagined.
"The suffering has ended," said his son, Paul Jr., speaking from the hospital on Monday. "It was a long road, but he went peacefully. We [sisters Mary Beth and Kathleen] were raised with that Irish-Catholic background, so we know a little bit about being stubborn. But his time had come."
Added the son, "He's at peace with Mom. He's with his father and all his friends and family who departed before he did."
Dowd, a cancer survivor, was the driving force behind the formation of the local Jimmy Fund council, which has been together longer than any other similar council in New England. Pittsfield's positive relationship and strong connection to the Dana Farber Institute in Boston can be traced directly to Dowd.
Jim Mazzer is one of three vice presidents on the Berkshire County Jimmy Fund board. He recalled a day three decades earlier, when Dowd was fighting cancer and attended his own fundraiser.
"He was down to about 120 pounds," said Mazzer, comparing that frame to the heftier and gregarious Irishman with which people were more familiar. "He gained back that weight and size, but his founding the local Jimmy Fund shouldn't come to anybody as a surprise."
Nobody was better than Dowd, Mazzer said, at calling Dana Farber on short notice and setting up a schedule or appointment for a family of a local child stricken with cancer.
"Even before he was hospitalized and not feeling well, Paul would be the one who wanted to make the call," Mazzer said. "We've contributed more than $1 million to Dana Farber over the years. Our great staff, and Paul, have made that happen."
Dowd also worked for many years in energy management at Northeast Utilities. The Dwyer Funeral Home in Pittsfield will be handling funeral arrangements.
Former Mayor Gerald S. Doyle Jr. served with Dowd on the City Council during the 1990s. Doyle called Dowd "genuine."
"Paul cared about the people of Pittsfield and the Jimmy Fund was his passion. And there was no finer councilman," Doyle said.
City attorney William Barry spearheaded efforts two years ago to name the infield at Wahconah Park in Dowd's name. The Monday afternoon ceremony was attended by about 2,000 locals, a tribute to a lifetime's work that featured boundless energy and favorable results.
"We know so much about the things Paul was able to do," Barry said. "And there's so much more we don't know. All the things he did that we didn't hear about. He was able to be at Wahconah Park that day and I know it meant so much to him."
Barry also served on the City Council with Dowd.
"It was always a pleasure to serve with him," Barry added. "What can we do and how can we do it? That's how Paul approached things."
"Whenever I think of him or hear his name I know it will cause me to smile," he said
Mazzer said that Dowd's unselfish nature was part of his legacy.
"He spent all that time making sure others received some measure of quality in their life," Mazzer said.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.