Remembering Roy Doolan, lawyer who wrote memoir about his childhood in a Japanese prisoner of war camp

Roy Doolan, 85, was forced with his parents into Santo Tomas Internment Camp from ages 5 to 8.

Roy Doolan. Credit: Lark Doolan

“A jug of wine, a loaf of bread — and thou, beside me, singing in the wilderness!” — Omar Khayyam, The Rubaiyat

Roy Fisher Doolan died of vascular dementia on Aug. 1, surrounded by family in his Berkeley home. He was 85.

Roy Fisher Doolan was born in Manila, Philippines, to Roy Gibson Doolan and Alla Fisher Doolan on May 14, 1936. His treasured early adventures included swimming with turtles in the Pacific Ocean. All of that changed abruptly in 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the onset of World War II. A life of privilege was suddenly transformed when he and his parents were forced into a prison camp where they remained interned by the Japanese military for over three years until General MacArthur’s troops liberated the camp on Feb. 3, 1945, a day the family continues to celebrate as Liberation Day.

In Santo Tomas Internment Camp, Roy and his mother survived for two years in a large classroom packed with other women and children before being allowed to relocate to a scrap-wood shanty Roy Sr. built. Here, the reunited family lived for the remaining year of internment. Roy’s deeply impactful three years of internment, from ages 5-8, became the subject of his memoir, My Life in a Japanese Prison Camp During World War II, which he wrote after his retirement. An active member of Civilian Ex-Prisoners of War Organization, Roy cherished his long-term friendships with his fellow internees. He returned to the Philippines several times, most recently in 2015 with his family to celebrate the 70th anniversary of his liberation.

Upon return to the United States, Roy and his parents settled in Healdsburg, California, where he graduated from Healdsburg High School in 1954. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in economics from Reed College, an MBA from Cornell University, a law degree from Boalt School of Law, completed a fellowship at Stanford University, and earned an LLM from Golden Gate University. He worked as a CPA, and then as an attorney with a focus on estate and gift tax. For much of his career, he arbitrated cases for the Appeals Division of the IRS, taught classes in tax law and was a union representative for the NTEU. He finished his career practicing law for Sideman & Bancroft in San Francisco.

In 1963, Roy met the love of his life, Pamela Anne Martin, while they were both students at UC Berkeley. They married on Dec. 14, 1963. Together they
participated in anti-war protests, traveled extensively, raised four children, and enjoyed summers at Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp. One of Roy’s greatest joys was getting Pamela to laugh; he worked diligently for her smile for all the years of their marriage.

A devoted husband and actively involved father, Roy savored time with his family. He faithfully attended school plays, chaperoned class field trips, coached his childrens’ soccer teams, and often included the family on business trips. Roy taught all of his children a deep love of learning and each has pursued higher education. His pride in his family was only outweighed by his commitment to support them in every possible way.

Roy was sensitive, thoughtful, insightful, kind and intelligent. Roy lived an expansive life of love, adventure and deep connections with others. May his memory be a blessing.

He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Pamela Martin Doolan; their four sons, Scot (Gina), Daniel (Sheryl), Stephen (Shannon) and Lark (Kim); their three grandchildren, Annabelle Claire, Leelu and Karina; and many extended family members and longtime friends.

There will be a small family service honoring Roy’s life. If you would like to pay tribute to Roy, we invite you to donate to Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp where Berkeley families spend time in community with nature on the unceded land of the Me-Wuk.