Frank Burton Doherty


Frank Burton Doherty as a law student

Frank Burton Doherty was born on March 5, 1886 in South Boardman, Kalkaska County, Michigan.  He was the son of Albert Burton Doherty and Rosetta May Rossman.  He was the grandson of Alexander Andre Doherty, the immigrant from Ireland who settled in northern Michigan in the 1840s.

Frank Doherty grew up on a farm near Fife Lake, Michigan.  He was the oldest child and son.  His brothers included William, Wallace (died young), Fred, Albert Burton (called “A.B.”), and Gerald (died at age 2).  His sisters were Minnie Rose (called “Bird”) and Geraldine.  A baby died before being named.  I met Aunt Bird and Aunt Geraldine when I was a little girl. I remember Aunt Bird giving me a hug and feeling warm and safe against her soft apron and housedress.

Unlike the rest of his family, Frank Doherty left farming and became a lawyer.  He first practiced in Michigan, then as an attorney for Marshall Field department store, and finally he went to Elizabeth, New Jersey for a job at DuPont.  A few years after his arrival back East in 1927 he was diagnosed with pernicious anemia and became too ill to work.  I don’t know where he met my grandmother, Edna Nason.  I vaguely remember my father saying that they had met in his law office.  It may have been in Michigan, but since my grandmother lived in Hammond, Indiana, about 30 miles away from Chicago, their meeting may have been when he worked for Marshall Field.

FBD as a young lawyer

My father had little to say about his father.  Their relationship seemed remote.  One story my father told me had to do with his father sternly admonishing him never to visit burlesque houses like Minsky’s in New York.  Dad immediately sneaked into a show.  Lo and behold, there he saw his father, “defying gravity,” Dad laughted, hanging over a box ogling the stripper entertainers.  Doherty men—my father, grandfather, and his father—were a lusty bunch.

My father gave me two other details about his father.  He was an atheist. He was also well-read; and often wrote letters to The New York Times on various stories and opinion pieces. His pen and Sengbusch inkwell has been passed down to me from my father. The worn black Bakelite inkwell has seen 80 years of continuous use. Frank Doherty wrote letters; Eugene Doherty corrected students’ papers; Karen Doherty uses it to jot notes and outlines for her three blogs.

Frank Burton Doherty died on July 19, 1945, shortly before the end of World War II. He was 59 years old.  Both his sons, Frank, Jr. (Army) and Eugene (Marines) were fighting in the South Pacific.  They were notified but could not return home.  He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, New Jersey.  When my grandmother, Edna Nason Doherty, died in 1961, a stone was placed over both saying “Husband” and “Wife.” It’s a very staid inscription for two people who traveled a long way from their Midwestern roots.

Edna and Frank Doherty, Elizabeth, NJ






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By Karen