James J. Doty, 75, died Tuesday, April 17, 2012 in the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He was the husband of Paula (Newell) Doty.
Born in Boston on December 29, 1936, he was the son of Augustus F. and Elinor (Jackson) Doty. The youngest of three children, Mr. Doty grew up on family farms in Waltham and Wayland.
He was president of his high school class at Noble and Greenough School and married a roommate’s sister, Paula Newell, who is known as KoKo. They would have celebrated their 50th anniversary in July.
Mr. Doty graduated in 1959 from Harvard, where he competed in the shot put and hammer throw. He ran the Boston Marathon in 1956, finishing 78th.
In 1961, he graduated from Boston University with a master’s degree in communications.
By the early 1960s, he was spending long days at his desk. Packing 265 pounds on a 6-foot-4-inch frame, he tried swimming to drop some weight. A burly insurance salesman, he launched the New England Marathon Swimming Association in 1978. Powering through bone-numbing cold in polluted water, he gasped for air amid the stench from burning garbage scows while enduring curious sharks, sea lice, and jellyfish.
Swimming long distances in open waters, James Jackson Doty braved Boston Harbor’s filthiest tides in the 1970s. He also swam 23 miles around Cape Ann, raced across New Hampshire lakes, and inspired scores to match themselves against the sea.
A past president of the L Street Brownies swim club, Mr. Doty was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 2002.
Mr. Doty joined the World Professional Marathon Swimming Association tour and swam in Rhode Island, Chicago, and Canada. After he met distance swimmer Jack Starrett of Natick while swimming in Lake Cochituate, the two trained together. He and Starrett tackled Cape Ann in 1966, but were interrupted by an oil slick, according to Brockton author and swimmer Robert McCormack, who chronicled Mr. Doty’s career in a book, “The Jim Doty Story.’’
Fueling himself with canned peaches, candy bars, and soda, Mr. Doty finished the Cape Ann swim solo in September 1973.
Mr. Doty twice tried to swim the English Channel in the early 1970s, only to be stopped by bad weather and changing tides. “He was disappointed because you can’t do it again if you don’t have the money and the time.”
In 1978, Mr. Doty reinitiated the 8-mile race from Boston Light to South Boston. The race dated to 1907, but had been discontinued since World War II. He built it into a favorite for swimmers training to cross the English Channel, because the conditions are similar. Held in August, the race now draws top swimmers from around the world. Mr. Doty completed it 18 times. He had held the record for swimming to Boston Light and back, which Elaine K. Howley of Waltham broke in 2010. Mr. Doty called her and took her out to lunch to celebrate.
Mr. Doty was a Mayflower descendant, but few friends knew, even though he sometimes jokingly scrawled “Jim Doty 1620’’ on notes and cards to friends. He never retired from the insurance business and never used computers.
In addition to his wife Koko, he leaves his daughters, Paula Doty Attridge, wife of David, Elinor Doty Juviler, wife of Geoffry all of Westwood; a son, James M.J. Doty, MD, husband of Kristen (Tillett) of Weston, Fla.; and 10 grandchildren.
ARRANGEMENTS: A celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, June 2nd at the First Parish Church in Brookline on Walnut Street at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to Mission Haiti, c/o Sawgrass Community Church, 17950 Griffin Rd., Southwest Ranches, FL 33331, where Jim’s son, Dr. James Doty, travels frequently to donate his time and provide surgical care to the underpriviledged Hatian people. Please visit www.SawgrassChurch.org. Interment will held privately in the Oak Grove Cemetery. Arrangements were under the direction of the Pike-Grondin Funeral Home, 61 Middle Street, Gloucester. For further information and online condolences, please visit www.grondinfuneralservices.com.