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Paul Thomas Doherty, 1919-2000



The “Old Fish Cop” left this world from his home in Gorham, New Hampshire, on June 18, after a long struggle with cancer. He was born on June 19, 1919, one of a family of four New Hampshire boys, all of whom followed different paths of social usefulness. After service with the U.S. Navy in World War II, Paul became a conservation officer with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and was soon appointed Chief of its Northern District.

In this capacity, he rapidly became a mountaineer—and joined the undersigned on several ventures into the mountains of Western Canada. As the responsible officer for search-and- rescue operations in the White Mountains, Paul partook in and directed countless “body removals” and other operations with happier endings. Many were the times when he rousted climbers like me out of bed at midnight with a call for technical climbing skills and word that he had already arranged “road courtesy” for us to get to the scene of action.

There would be Paul, surrounded by his game warden associates and U.S. Forest Service staff, with all the known details of the situation and whatever supplies he had been able to scrounge up. We would set off for the pertinent cliff face—or windswept, wintry barren—where his gang would stand by for the dirty work of carrying injured persons, or cadavers, down through the tangled New Hampshire bush to a highway. Paul would occasionally note that the more life there was on a stretcher, the louder were the complaints about rough porterage.

With the late Dr. Benjamin G. Ferris, Jr., and two of his daughters, in 1966, Paul and his late wife, Sally, built the “Great Cairn” Hut near Mount Sir Sandford, an edifice that has since been renamed by the Alpine Club of Canada as the Ben Ferris Hut. In 1992, Paul and the late Dr. Harry McDade were joint recipients of The American Alpine Club’s David Sowles Award for their numberless rescue ventures among the mountains of the north country.

While well known as a writer for the local newspapers of Coos County, and author of the delightful autobiography, Smoke From 1,000 Camp Fires, Paul also served, inter alia, as Director of the New Hampshire State Parks, Chief of the Off-Highway Vehicle Bureau, and in his final incarnation of public service, as consultant for the construction of the environmentally sensitive Franconia Notch Parkway.

He taught me a lot.

William Lowell Putnam