PITTSFIELD -- Here's hoping that heaven was open on Monday, because Paul M. Dowd was scheduled to arrive and he no doubt had a full agenda of things to accomplish.
Dowd, who died at age 66 on Labor Day following a long battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), was eulogized on Monday during a funeral mass at a packed St. Joseph Church before he was buried at St. Joseph Cemetery.
The longtime former city councilor served as president of the Berkshire County Jimmy Fund for 30 years, and was a member of countless service organizations. He was recognized at the funeral mass for his civic work and leadership.
But his accomplishments as a father, grandfather, father-in-law, husband and friend were also brought to center stage in moving, emotional eulogies by his son, Paul A. Dowd, and the Rev. Gary Dailey, St. Joseph's former pastor.
Dowd was remembered for his great Catholic faith and his love of just about anything to do with his Irish heritage. Bagpipes played as mourners left the church.
"The true test of character is to do the right thing when no one is watching," said Dailey, who had remained close to the Dowd family after being reassigned from St. Joseph's. "There is really too much to say about Paul. If everyone in the church today had a chance to share their Paul Dowd stories, then we'd be here for months."
Dailey called Dowd's youngest daughter, Mary Beth, "a true angel," for caring for her father in Raleigh, N.C., for the past three years. Kathleen, the eldest daughter who lives in South Hadley, was "a rock" for the family, according to Dowd's son. Many of the family's difficult questions and decisions went through Kathleen.
Said Dowd's son during his father's eulogy, "We certainly had to circle the wagons and pull together."
The son never wavered in his remarks while addressing the church. At times he offered some needed humor.
"One of the last things my dad told me," Paul said, "was not to screw this thing up."
The elder Dowd battled ALS the way he attacked batters during his career as a pitcher in the Boston Red Sox organization, which included a minor-league stint in Pittsfield. He was a "role model" prior to and during that fight against the disease, his son said.
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"We had what we thought was closure with him about four or five times," Paul said. "He kept battling back. He commanded respect, but he deserved it."
"His life was a sermon in itself," Dailey said. "Only chosen souls are asked to carry the cross."
And, Dowd did so as if it was a mandate.
Said the son to the throng, "When we heard that my father had been stricken with ALS, it was Mary Beth who asked, ‘Why you, Dad?' And my Dad said to her, ‘why not me?' "
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.