SportsValley VitalsIt's in the StarsStarwiseArchivesLinksAbout The VoiceContact Us
Celebrating His Irish Heritage Sharing Memories With Glen Dowling
photo providedIrish eyes are smiling! Glen Dowling is pleased with his life and even more so with his Irish roots.
photo providedWith Irish Dowling stories for his grandchildren and his great grandchild shown here, Glen is the keeper of the family Irish heritage and stories of many generations.
Tuesday March 18, 2014
By Cookie Steponaitis
James Glenville Dowling is about as Irish as they come and hearing stories of the Dowling line through the generations can be likened to facing the power of a storm and hanging on not only to survive but thrive. The Dowling clan has a genealogy that traces back to the earliest times of the Emerald Isle and they cover the globe and are successful in careers spanning the spectrum. Gracing all their stories is a tenacity, work ethic and powerful sense of being the master of their own destinies and directions. All generations hold a great faith in their Irish roots -----and the lessons learned through the generations.
Glen’s father arrived from Ireland in 1914 leaving behind a nation in turmoil. When war swept the continent the Dowling family sent some of their young men to America to remove them from being conscripted into the British Army. Glen speaks warmly of his father who was a dentist by trade and remembers vividly lessons at his dad’s knee learning to read clearly by the age of four. Glen was educated in the Connecticut area and at the young age of eighteen was an Ensign in the U.S. Navy serving in the Pacific Theater from 1943-1945. As a deck crew on the LST 1043 ship Glen’s travels included crossing the Panama Canal, International Date Line and placed him at Hiroshima just weeks after the dropping of the first atomic bomb. “I guess you could say I covered most of the Pacific by the time I was done,” remarked Glen. “One memorable site was the beachfront property on Hawaii’s main shoreline which at the time was all open except for one hotel. We also rode through the Typhoon of 1945 and that I will tell you caused a man to pause and think. The swells were seventy feet high and almost dwarfed the ship. That crossing was a tough one.”
Upon returning home Glen married and started a family with wife Marge and eventually had their children James, Cynthia and Nicholas. He attended Columbia University on the G.I. Bill and graduated like his father with a degree in dentistry. Certificates, photos and paintings spanning Glen’s life and careers hang in his home. Walking by his dental degree the signature of Dwight Eisenhower at the bottom of the certificate gives this reporter pause to stop and stare and Glen to chuckle and simply share some more stories. After a brief time in California the family settled in the Fairfield, Connecticut area where Glen had grown up with his father, mother and sister Patricia. He practiced dentistry from 1950-1988 and witnessed not only remarkable changes in America and its technology but also advances in dental surgery and practices. Glen served not only as a family dentist but as a practitioner of Orthodontics and dental surgery and chuckles about some of the apparatus he had left from his father’s time and the revolutionary changes that were a part of the field when he retired.
Tragically Glen’s wife passed away only months after his retirement and his life again shifted with change. He met his current wife Lee in 1989 and the couple has been happily married since and have called St. Augustine, Florida and for many years Vermont their home. At eighty-eight years strong Glen looks at his life as a blessed one with three children, nine grandchildren, one great grandchild (with two more on the way) and a life full of health, fitness, sailing, tennis, skiing and most of all family. Sitting with the couple in their Addison County home Glen can reminisce not only about his life time but jump generations to share stories of the Dowling’s past, their lives in Ireland and other parts of the world where they still reside.
The Great Depression was also a part of Glen’s life and while his family escaped the brunt of it he remembers that even his next door neighbors were greatly impacted. “The people next to us were lawyers,” explained Glen. “Living with them was not only the wife’s family but the husband’s family as well. It was not a good time for lawyers, and my mother would often make meals and take them over just to help out. That was the way of people then.”
Glen shared an extensive family genealogy with this reporter and stories of the Dowling family members in Ireland, Australia, Canada and the United States. Glen has traveled to the Emerald Isle three times in order to meet family and see what they were all about. While looking at photos of a home at 39 Belgrave Road, Dublin where his father began his life and journey, Glen traces several family members whose paths led them to the states and into epic events in history. “My great uncle came to America in the early 1800’s,” commented Glen. “He found himself walking on the streets of New Orleans a large city and saw a sign wanting a bag maker. He went right in and said ‘I’m your man.’ The only problem being he didn’t even know what a bag was or how to make it. I will tell you he learned mighty quick and he did very well for himself.”
Stories continued to flow about the same uncle ending up starting a plantation in the south which served as one of the models for the fictional ‘Tara’ in the novel by Margaret Mitchell Gone with the Wind. Glen’s ancestor ended up back in New Orleans in 1893 after leaving the plantation life behind. Yet another Dowling came to America and went to work for the Boston Herald in the mid 1800’s and was by all accounts a sports buff and whiz. He caught gold fever and made the trip across the continent to Alaska for the Gold Rush of 1898. A cousin moved from Ireland to Spain and married a man who was part of the Spanish Revolution. Now close to 100 she still lives on her own in Spain and writes of the family history.
After spending just over two hours with Glen Dowling it was apparent that the tip of an eclectic and incredible Irish odyssey had just been scratched. Looking at photos and family records triggered a stream of new stories, adventures and long letters home to the Emerald Isle from generations of Dowlings who came to America and made their way in the world. When asked if Glen worried about the world his great-grandchildren were coming of age in Glen replied, “I did the best for my family as did my children for theirs. I simply hope my great grandchildren will be as contented with their lives as I am with mine.”
With a firm handshake, a strong stance and litany of Irish heritage that never slows, Glen Dowling is a part of a generation grounded in their identity, family and a proud heritage. While corned beef and cabbage is on the menu in the Dowling home for St. Patrick’s Day, for Glen being Irish is more than a once a year celebration. It is a source of stories, pride and knowledge that while he may be American by birth he really is Irish by luck and the grace of God. In fact, Glen admits that he’s been a lucky man all his life. He’s proud of his heritage, his family, and the life he carved out for himself in a country which celebrates all things Irish every March 17.
Search our Archives