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Longtime Westchester Resident, Ad Man, Fly Fisherman Bob Doherty, 89

Fly fishing with his sons was one of the joys of longtime successful adman Bob Doherty's life.
Fly fishing with his sons was one of the joys of longtime successful adman Bob Doherty's life. Photo Credit: Contributed

Robert (Bob) Cunningham Doherty was born in New York City on Sept. 30, 1930, the son of Francis Joseph and Helen Utley Doherty. 

He grew up in Westchester County and attended public schools there (first in Mount Vernon and then “out in the country” in Chappaqua). He was a Cub Scout for several years, took piano lessons and frequently played sandlot baseball with his older brother, Mike.

At the start of World War II, his parents decided to move back to New York City and in 1939 Bob and his brother were sent to a boarding academy, the Harvey School, in Hawthorne.

Bob prepped at Exeter in New Hampshire and four years later went to Princeton University, where he majored in English, minored in American Civilization, belonged to the Ivy Club and played on the 1951 National Championship lacrosse team. He graduated in 1952.

The Korean War was underway at the time. After Officers Training, Bob was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Following brief stops in Quantico, VA, Camp Lejeune, NC, Camp Pendleton, CA and three months on an artillery range at the foot of Mt. Fuji, Japan, he was shipped to Korea as a replacement forward observer with the 11th Marines. He eventually became the Executive Officer of a 105-mm battery in that regiment.

Discharged in 1954, he returned home to New York City where his advertising and marketing career began. He joined the New York office of a large Chicago ad agency. After five years, Bob and three of his associates left the firm to form their own startup which, in turn, they sold several years later to Wells Rich Greene, a prominent Madison Avenue firm whose clients included Procter & Gamble, Ralston Purina, PanAm as well as IBM and which was responsible for the “I Love NY” campaign.

In 1979, at the urging of a New York recruiter, Bob met Charles McKinney who owned a small but successful agency (McKinney, Silver & Rockett) in Raleigh which was beginning to attract attention from national advertisers. Bob was interested and moved his family and worldly possessions to North Carolina (and escaped the intensity and decay of New York City).

Over time, the agency flourished with clients like Piedmont Airlines (which grew quickly in the 1980s after the airline industry was deregulated), North Carolina National Bank (which eventually became Bank of America), Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines and Audi Automobiles.

Eventually, as the advertising agency industry became increasingly consolidated, independence became more difficult so Bob (as CEO) and Lloyd Jacobs, his partner, together with several senior executives, sold the company to a group of digital marketing pioneers in Silicon Valley, CA.

Bob retired a year later, in 2000, and turned his attention to a number of the state’s well-known cultural institutions: the North Carolina Symphony, the National Audubon Society and the North Carolina Museum of History. He joined their boards and began counseling them on a pro-bono basis. He found the work very rewarding and enjoyed the challenges and the passion of the people who dedicated themselves to these worthy organizations.

Together with his beloved wife, Kerstin, he enjoyed almost 20 years of retirement. He gardened, spent weekends at their home on Figure Eight Island, visited with his four sons Michael, Kelly, Andy and Tom and their far-flung family members (which now include eight grandchildren) and twice a year, for many years, took fly-fishing trips out west with one or more of his sons to Montana, Colorado or Wyoming. There were even adventures to exotic locations like Patagonia, the Alaskan Aleutian Islands, Belize and the salt-water flats of the Bahamas.

Of these trips, Bob had this to say in the foreword of a book of his fishing notes that was privately printed in 2010:

The thing about fly-fishing is this... First, it’s the beauty of the places it takes you.Then it’s the joy of time with loved ones. It's the banter of streamside pals. It’s the little stories, never forgotten. It’s trying to master technique. Then—and only then—is it about the fish. So it is with life.

A Memorial Service will be held on Tuesday, Dec.17 at 1 p.m. at the Mission Chapel in Raleigh. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent the the North Carolina Symphony or the North Carolina Audubon Society. Condolences may be left at Renaissance Funeral Home.

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