Background: Born in Rockfield, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Doherty immigrated to London when he was 19 before he joined his sisters in New York in 1961. He is being honored at the Aisling Irish Center’s dinner dance next month, and is the owner of Precision Windows in Yonkers.
What was Ireland like when you left?
“When I left it broke my heart for a long time. Especially immigrating to the city of Pourtsmouth in the south of England. I knew nobody there apart from my one cousin. Besides that, I could not understand the accents. I wanted to return home, but I had a major problem: my pockets were empty.
“So to answer your question, at the time Ireland was indeed a lovable, relaxed country. All the house dances, the close ties and warm friendship people had for each other is what made Ireland so enjoyable. But, unfortunately, when you had to go you had to go.”
You helped build the New York World's Fair in the early 1960s?
“I was lucky to get a job there as a carpenter, together with my very good friends Austin Delaney and his brother Jim -- both have since passed. It was very exciting indeed.”
“I worked for a period in the Spanish Pavilion, making shelves for old bottles of wine which were up to 300 years old. I was so tempted to pop of the corks, but we were watched too closely. I also worked another pavilion, making revolving stages for the entertainers.”
What do you think about the Celtic boom and bust at home in Ireland?
“I actively experienced part of it. At the time I had property over there, so I decided to develop and build houses. I was half way through the project but I could not take the mountains of red tape, so I pulled the plug, unloaded the rest and got out before the bust. Looking back, if there was no red tape I might still be there and gone down with the bust.”
How did you end up in the windows business?
“By accident. I had just got out of the bar business. My youngest daughter Dawn was about to be born and I thought, let me try something else. I picked up the Yellow Pages and spent a few days making phone calls. I finally landed a job as a salesman for a home improvement company. I did have some sales experience from London. I spent a couple of years selling vacuum cleaners from door to door. Having that experience and the gift of the gab helped me get the foot in the door.
“I worked in that job for a year and windows were part of the sales business. At that time a law was enacted in Washington to conserve energy that gave me the idea to start my own business selling windows.
“After a year I designed a new energy saving window. I opened a shop and started fabricating custom windows for designated landmark buildings. I am still doing it 30 years later.”
What does it mean to you to be honored at the Aisling dance?
“I feel so privileged. For the first two weeks I did not believe it and thought it was a joke. Now that I know it’s true, me, my wife and family are over the moon and looking forward to the wonderful night on October 6.”