Former Westmont resident, WWII veteran celebrates 100th birthday

Thomas J. “TJ” Doody has an inkling of what it takes to live a long and happy life.

At age 100, the former Westmont resident and decorated World War II veteran should.

Doody celebrated the milestone surrounded by family and fellow residents July 14, the day before his birthday, at the Lakeview Memory Center in Bloomingdale.

Glen Ellyn resident Susan Griffith credits her father’s longevity to always having a positive attitude.

“One of his phrases is, ‘Well, you just adjust and go on.’ And he’s right. I think that has played an enormous role in his attitude about life,” Griffith said. “Even when he’s had health issues or had to stop driving at age 95, he said, ‘I’ll just adjust.’ And he does.”

After enlisting in the U.S. Army, Doody qualified as an air cadet in 1942 and then was assigned as a 1st lieutenant and pilot at an air base in England. His duties often included escorting bombers, strafing and performing fighter sweeps.

The highly decorated veteran earned an Air Medal, Silver Oak Cluster and Theater Ribbon with three Bronze Battle Stars.

As a P-51 pilot, he escorted bombers over Europe, flying more than 260 combat hours and 51 missions.

Griffith said her father always looks up to the sky when he’s outside.

“It’s a habit he’s had all his life since he flew,” she said. “He can always tell me the types of clouds or the kind of weather we might be encountering.”

After World War II, Doody completed an apprenticeship in scientific glassblowing and was hired by Argonne National Laboratory.

He and his wife, Catherine, raised their four children in Westmont. Doody has six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, several of whom attended his milestone birthday party.

Throughout his 32 years at Argonne, he collaborated with scientists and created custom glassware to enable breakthrough research. Among his many professional accomplishments, Doody was presented with the Kermit Fischer Award by the American Scientific Glassblowers Society and received a patent for his invention of a multiple outlet semi-ball and socket valve.

Griffith said her father instilled the importance of working hard into all of his children.

“There’s not a lazy bone in his body,” she said. “He did what it took to support his family. And it’s a work ethic that has been passed onto his kids and grandkids and great-great grandkids.”

She calls the life her father has lived “amazing.”

“He’s lived through so many different things,” she said. “The Depression and World War II, the [Chicago] World’s Fair, the Cold War and the Eisenhower era of the 1950s and the Korean War. When you think of all the history … my god. And to even see just the technology now. Things have just changed so radically and he’s seen it all. What a remarkable life.”

Griffith has fond memories of the trip she and her husband took with Doody to Ireland, where his ancestor are from, when Doody was 85.

“It was fascinating,” she said. “We toured all through County Kerry and County Limerick. We found the name Doody on plaques commemorating something in the town where his dad lived and also went to the cemetery and saw some gravestones with the name Doody on them. We were able to find the birth certificate of his grandfather indicating where he grew up, so we went to the area where the farm was, which is, of course, all roads now. It’s amazing to not only have your dad at age 85 want to do all this, but also that we found some of the Doody history there.”

These days, Doody especially enjoys being regaled with stories about the younger generation in his family.

“The great grandkids – now the oldest one is probably close to 30 – he loves hearing about their episodes and sports and studies and all the positive things happening to the young people in our family,” Griffith said. “It just brings a smile to his face.”

During Doody’s birthday celebration, members of Bloomingdale VFW Post 7539 held a pinning ceremony to recognize his many years of service as a fighter pilot during WWII and he was presented with a proclamation by Bloomingdale Mayor Franco Coladipietro declaring July 15 as Tom Doody Day in the village.

Jim Livesay, executive director at Lakeview Memory Care, said Doody has lived at the center for about a year.

“He’s this easygoing guy who is enjoying life,” Livesay said. “And he’s still got some witty humor to him. To live 100 years … it’s definitely a huge milestone. What an incredible life.”