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Devin Dooley can remember the dates instantly: Oct. 23, 2016, and Aug. 23, 2018.

Those are the days when he lost his father and mother, respectively.

His father, Dan Dooley, a three-time cancer survivor, was claimed by the disease, fighting all the way, Devin said.

His mother, Liz Dooley, who had long been ill with a rare heart and lung disease, suffered a fall and died of a hemorrhage in one of her lower vertebrae, he said.

His father’s death came early in Devin's sophomore year at Philomath High School; his mother’s death came just a week before he started his senior year.

“It took a toll on my ability to focus, especially in school,” Devin said. Sometimes missed school days so that he could visit the hospital. Other days, he just found himself mentally unable to get himself to school. As a result, Devin said, he had trouble keeping up.

However, his teachers gave him both some flexibility on deadlines and emotional support that helped him avoid falling too far behind. He added that the Philomath community rallied around him and his older sister, Juliea Dooley, bringing them meals at the family home, where they continue to live.

After his mother’s death, Devin said, the community support was particularly impactful because his mom had been involved with Philomath High's volleyball team. Seeing so many people affected by her death meant a lot to him.

He said after his dad’s death he tried to force himself to be happy despite the loss and he locked a lot of his emotions away. But when his mom died, the emotions from the loss of his father came back as well. He said his biggest lesson has been to face his emotions and learn to accept the tragedies he’s experienced.

“You are dealt these cards in life. You cannot change the past. You just have to keep moving forward,” he said. 

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He said that, despite everything, he is a happy person and he likes his life.

“I always tell people, ‘I am better than you would expect,’” he said.

Devin said he learned this perspective watching his parents remain positive through their medical issues.

“Seeing them go through pain and negative experiences, and still have a positive outlook was really inspiring,” he said.

Beth Edgemon, a Philomath counselor, said Devin has been incredibly resilient despite his two losses.

"He has shown strength every day while grieving the death of his parents. Devin's determination to put one foot in front of the other each day, to come to school, to focus on his classwork and reach the goal of graduation is remarkable and a beautiful tribute to his parents and the son they raised," she said.

Devin is set to walk with the Philomath High School Class of 2019 at its graduation ceremony Saturday at 1 p.m.

“I’m very excited (about graduation),” he said. “Not to say I didn’t like high school. I loved my high school career, but I’m ready to move on.”

Devin said he plans to someday open an auto shop and he may take some mechanic's classes at Linn-Benton Community College. He said the love of cars is something he shared with his parents: His mom helped him find the 1965 Mustang he’s currently restoring, and he spent many hours in the garage with his dad working on a 1978 International Scout his dad planned to give him on his 16th birthday.

“When I think of my father, I think of working on the Scout with him out in the garage.”

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Anthony Rimel covers weekend events, education, courts and crime and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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