Whenever he encountered people who were down on their luck, Philip Doran did his best to make their lives better—not just with money, but with his kind, mentoring character.
Doran, a lifelong Beverly resident, was a successful attorney, and he donated countless hours and funds to charities and non-profits.
Doran died on Sept. 18 at age 79, and his family and friends are grateful for the valuable life lessons he taught them.
“He always had a soft spot for the downtrodden or marginalized people of our world,” said his son, John. “He was always kind of looking out for the underdog at any point in his life.”
Doran was a lifelong member of Christ the King Roman Catholic Church. He attended Christ the King Elementary School, where he met his wife, Mary I. (Scanlan), in sixth grade.
As a partner at Balkin and Doran law firm, Doran thrived as a trial lawyer. He worked at the firm until age 65.
However, even while enjoying his career in law, Doran gave back to others in his spare time.
He worked with and volunteered at the Franciscan Outreach Shelter, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Precious Blood Ministry, Misericordia and at juvenile detention centers.
According to his daughter, Elizabeth Sheedy, Doran “didn’t just write a check” to organizations he helped; he worked one on one with beneficiaries.
Precious Blood Ministry, located in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, works with youths who are re-entering the community after incarceration or who are actively incarcerated.
Executive Director the Rev. David Kelly knew Doran for about 10 years and said he regularly visited clients serving time in a juvenile detention center, helped conduct mock interviews with clients preparing to return to society and connected Precious Blood with financial supporters.
Doran was “a real troubleshooter,” Kelly said. On one occasion, he helped a client who needed to get a driver’s license but had to clear several tickets first.
“He was kind of that connector,” Kelly said, “and could get things done for you.”
Doran attended St. Ignatius College Prep and John Carroll University before earning his law degree from Northwestern University in 1965.
Retired Judge Sheila Murphy, a Beverly resident and former attorney, praised Doran for focusing on restorative justice. Instead of asking how long people should be in jail, she said, Doran would ask what led them to being incarcerated in the first place and what their family life was like.
She called him “a pilgrim in the law,” blazing a new path.
“Everyone just always had good things to say about him,” Murphy said. “People just loved him. He was a good negotiator. He was good at whatever he did. That’s what everyone thought, and I sure did, too.”
Doran and Mary I. raised five children, and she said even with his busy career, “he was still an absolutely outstanding father and husband.”
The couple faced challenges in their family with courage and grace. Their second-oldest child, Phil, was born healthy but developed viral encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, at age 17. Phil had “ups and downs,” his family said, but enjoyed a fruitful life until dying in 2015 age 48.
Despite suffering from seizures, Phil partook in family ski trips in Colorado until two years before he died.
His father’s funny, charming personality kept Phil smiling.
Philip Doran had a brother who had muscular dystrophy, so he grew up caring for relatives with special needs. He became active with Misericordia in honor of his son.
“Phil totally idolized my dad but would also pick up on my dad’s jokes,” Elizabeth said. “He tried to act like my dad.”
Doran became involved with Franciscan Outreach, which fights homelessness, through his mother, who worked in the non-profit’s soup kitchen. After she died, Doran introduced himself and also began working in the soup kitchen. He remained on the organization’s board until his death and was responsible for others joining the board.
Doran’s work with St. Vincent de Paul, which helps the needy, came through the chapter at Christ the King. Known as “the godfather of CK,” he helped establish the Christ the King School Foundation and, in recent years, spearheaded renovations at the school. He also helped raise funds to construct a playground at nearby Kellogg Elementary School.
Family, friends and co-workers knew that if they told Doran they had some free time on a Friday night, Doran would invite them to help him at a food pantry.
His sister-in-law, Suzy Eiben, praised his selflessness.
“To know Philly was to love him,” Eiben said. “He was kind, compassionate and always concerned for others. He took the time to visit with everyone he met and listened to and remembered their stories. He connected people with whatever they needed, including jobs and countless volunteer opportunities. If you were sick, you got a visit from Phil at home or in the hospital. His generosity to his parish and the less fortunate was unparalleled, and he encouraged others to do the same. … He always greeted you with a smile and left you laughing. He truly made the world a better place.”
Doran’s hobbies included rafting and tennis, and he loved the Bears, Bulls, Cubs and the University of Notre Dame. If one of his favorites wasn’t playing, family said, he rooted for the underdog.
Doran could have relocated to a more affluent neighborhood, his family said, but loved Beverly too much.
He wanted to build up his home community as much as he could.
“I think he just realized it’s better to give back than to potentially live in the fanciest neighborhood in the biggest house,” John said. “He lived that way. He never wanted to leave and move downtown. He always wanted to be in Beverly. He was really committed to the South Side and making it better, to fighting through the problems.”
Doran is survived by his wife of 55 years, Mary I.; his children, John (Jennifer), Edmund, Margaret (Jeff) Pezza and Elizabeth (Patrick) Sheedy; his grandchildren, Margaux, Mairead and Jameson Doran, Luke, Andrew, David, Mary Irene and Margaret Grace Pezza, and Charlotte and Caroline Sheedy; his sister, Maryrita (John) Peters; and many nieces and nephews from the Brown, Eiben, Peters and Scanlan families.
Funeral services were held Sept. 24 at Christ the King Church. Interment took place at St. Mary Cemetery. Heeney-Laughlin Funeral Directors handled the arrangements.