Michel Doherty was a force that helped support many members of the SW FL
Michel doherty was the kind of community strength that most communities can only dream of.
There was so much for Doherty, who died Sunday at the age of 96, that went into this force.
She was a Broadway dancer in her past, friends with many famous people, a mentor to many local women such as former Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, she was a funder for those trying to overcome addiction and she has served as a strong support for many others.
âI was with her when she passed away,â Benacquisto said. âProfessionally, she ran The Cloisters (a Pine Island addiction treatment center) for a while. Because of this, she touched so many lives …, she helped families heal and grow through drug addiction treatment. “
Benacquisto said that one aspect of her friend was enough to leave a positive impact on the region.
She congratulated friends Jeanne Sweeney and Christina Cook who also played a vital role in Doherty’s care during her later years.
Benacquisto also praised Doherty’s work as a mentor to so many local women, including herself.
âShe was strong and she would tell you what she thought about it, wholeheartedly,â Benacquisto said. “But, she was just a strong advocate for involving women and women at the table when important decisions were made about them.”
Benacquisto named some of the things Doherty gave her energy to, most notably the Pace Center for Girls, where she funded a scholarship in her name, and Hope Hospice, where she contributed to the development and dream of the Cape Coral Hospital House. , where she died.
âShe was a force of nature, really,â she says.
An article highlighting her life in 2014 in The News-Press describes her as follows: âShe danced under the brightest lights on Broadway shows. She could call friends of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Betty Ford . young minds interested in big dreams, influencing the state’s political careers Senator Lizbeth Benacqusito, State Representative Dane Eagle and Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki. She loves her hometown of Cape Coral and has been active in many cases. “
Doherty grew up in Buffalo, New York, and pursued a dancing and modeling career that began at age 19, taking her to New York and then to Philadelphia, where she danced in shows intended for either to the big stages. New York or closed a few weeks after opening.
She danced at the Copacabana nightclub in New York City. She danced in the Latin Quarter. She worked with Martin and Jerry Lewis and a simple phone call from Sinatra, wherever he was opening a show, brought Doherty and her then-husband, “Big Bill” Rodstein, to his house as guests.
Her charities started when she was young. Even as a dancer, then wife and mother, she was drawn to charity and helped raise enough money to build a wing at the University of Pennsylvania Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, one of the main establishments in the country.
Tragedy that befell her, her husband passed away and she had a drinking problem, battling what she calls the disease of alcoholism.
âAfter being a social drinker I became a heavy drinker, then my husband died and my drinking got out of hand,â Doherty said in this 2014 News-Press article. âI had to watch it because of my sister. At first I denied that I had a problem and then went for treatment. But there was nothing for the women, most of the men were sent for treatment.
Because of these difficulties, Doherty saw the need to help others. She went back to school, trained in psychiatry, earned a bachelor’s degree at age 52 and a master’s degree at age 55 from Lincoln University, the first historically black university in the United States.
Doherty said she was expertly trained because most of her teachers were Harvard and Yale graduates, but they were black and it was the ’70s so many of them couldn’t find any employment in traditionally white colleges. While earning her master’s degree, she continued to work at Horsham Clinic, a mental hospital, obtaining the training that brought her to Pine Island.
She became the executive director of The Cloisters rehab center on the island in 1971, dealing with well-known celebrities. It was an intense six-week program in which families of drug addicts spent a week there, learning about addictions and how to deal with the person.
Doherty said she deals with governors, country and western singers and other personalities. She first met Betty Ford during her first year of abstinence.
She retired in 1990, but in many ways she was just getting started.
His first project was the Four Mile Cove Ecological Reserve in Cape Coral, the only saltwater reserve in the middle of a city. At the time, there were no funds to maintain the land, which belonged to the state but leased to the city. She went to work, chatting with the county commissioners. He was told there was no funding. It only stirred her more.
She explained the environmental importance of the property and convinced the director of tourism to give the city $ 250,000 and an additional $ 250,000 next year. She also helped persuade the county to give Cape Coral the land where important military monuments are now located, like the Iwo Jima Memorial.
Doherty, who made his home in Cape Coral, leaves behind son William and stepdaughter Barbara Rodstein. A son Michael predeceased her.
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