Dedication of the William J. Doherty Recycling Center
by John W. Bristow. Committeeman, Troop 50, Boy Scouts of America
It is altogether fitting that we dedicate Mahwah’s Recycling Center to the late William J. Doherty, for his example spoke powerfully to us all about one of today’s most pressing needs, saving our environment. Bill Doherty’s contributions to this community were many, but my contacts with him were mostly through one of his great loves, the work of the Boy Scouts.
The Scouts of this community have always been involved in recycling. Before there was a scout troop in Mahwah, some Mahwah boys belonged to a troop in Suffern. During World War I these boys and their Mahwah Scoutmaster, E. B. Beebe, organized a major salvage project involving, rags, metals, newspapers and magazines as their part of the war effort. After the war this activities was suspended until World War II. Starting even before America went to war, the Boy and Girl Scouts instituted an aluminum salvage drive in July, 1941. The next year the scouts assisted the Defense Board in collecting paper, rags and metals. In 1945 the Boy Scouts took over complete responsibility for newspaper recycling in the Township, continuing until the recent take-over of the project by the Township. Between 1966, the first year for which we have continuous records, and the time of Troop 50’s Diamond Jubilee in 1980, the paper drive had collected nearly 2,000 tons of paper. Many people had an important role in this activity, during the 1950s. William L. Fisher was generally the paper drive chairman. In the 1960s it was Bruce Cochrane. In the 1970s Bill Cawthra, who unfortunately could not be here today, was chairman. During the 1980s that main role was taken by Bill Doherty.
Bill became interested in Scouts when his sons became scouts. He joined the Troop Committee in 1973, was Committee Chairman between 1975 and 1980, and served as Scoutmaster from 1979 until his untimely death in 1987. During all those years he hardly missed a meeting. His wise leadership deeply impressed the many young men who passed through the troop. He rarely raised his voice, but when he did those boys listened. Many a boy has said that he came on this or that activity because he did not want to disappoint Bill. He also gathered around him a versatile group of adult leaders, involving them in the many activities organized for the Troop. Scouting prospered during Bill’s tenure, and continues strong today with some of those same leaders still active.
Bill’s interest in recycling extended far beyond the monthly newspaper drives. Increasingly he realized that Mahwah needed more than a token paper collection. He believed that more than newspapers should be recycled. He convinced the Township to park a trailer here so that people could deposit newspapers between the monthly drives. He acquired two wooden sheds where glass and aluminum cans could be collected for recycling. This was the beginning of this recycling center as we know it. His fundamental achievement was not simply to establish a place where recycling could be done, but also to find the volunteers make it work.
Almost every Saturday morning for several years he was here, rain or shine, winter or summer to supervise collections. He persuaded scouts to give a Saturday morning a month, and recruited loyal crew of adult volunteers to assist. It would be rash to attempt to list those who were loyal members of the recycling crew here, but prominent in my mind were Willie Fisher, and Dick Cantor. I know that I missed few Saturdays here myself. The reason was to do some good for the Troop, which depended on the proceeds to fund its activities, to help the environment, of course, but most of all not to disappoint Bill. He would never ask you why you didn’t show up but you knew that he was there and you looked forward to sitting around shooting the breeze with a wonderful friend, hearing him kid Willie Fisher and doing some good in the process. Of course it was hard work. “Tons of paper had to be packed into those trailers, paper bags discarded and garbage sorted out. We found car keys, jewelry and once a $20 bill in with the newspapers as well as regretfully cat litter, rotting garbage and other things I would rather not mention. When the time came to take the stuff down to collection centers Bill was always there. I recall numerous Saturdays when we went down to Hackensack with a truckload of cans and returned smelling of stale soda and beer with a few dollars for the Troop. In all of this Bill was our inspiration and example.
Unfortunately Bill did not live to see Mahwah’s model recycling program in full operation. He would be proud of how his ideas were brought to fruition. The William J. Doherty Recycling Center will serve as a fitting memorial to a man who had the welfare of his community at heart, dedicated many of his evening and weekend hours to public service and yet remained a war friend, a faithful son, a devoted husband and a loving father. To Bill’s family I say, we are poorer for his having left us, but richer for having known him. Thanks Bill.