Devin Dooley can remember the dates instantly: Oct. 23, 2016 and Aug. 23, 2018.
The days 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, had a fall and died of a hemorrhage in one of her lower vertebrae, he said.
Devin’s father’s death came early in his 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.
Devin is set to walk with the Class of 2019 at its graduation ceremony at 1 p.m. Saturday at Clemens Field.
Because he sometimes missed school days visiting the hospital or just being mentally unable to get himself to school, Devin said he had trouble keeping up in school. However, he said his teachers gave him both some flexibility on deadlines and emotional support that helped him avoid falling too far behind.
Devin added that the Philomath community rallied around him and his older sister, Juleia Dooley, bringing them meals at the family house where they continue to live.
After his mother’s death, Devin said, the community support was particularly helpful because his mom had been involved with Philomath High School's volleyball team and seeing so many people impacted 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 of his father’s loss came back to him as well. He said his biggest lesson from the losses is 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.
Devin 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 from 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 PHS counselor, said Devin has been incredibly resilient despite two his tragic 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.
“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 of his own and he may take some mechanics classes at Linn-Benton Community College.
A love for cars is something that he shared with both parents. His mom helped him find the 1965 Mustang he’s currently restoring and he spent many hours in the garage working on a 1978 International Scout with his dad, who planned to give him the vehicle on his 16th birthday.
“When I think of my father, I think of working on the Scout with him out in the garage," he said.