EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 1, 2013

Turning her loss into a cause

Windham mom hosts road race in her husband's name

By Bill Burt
bburt@eagletribune.com

---- — WINDHAM — On the evening of April 14, 2012, with their two kids put to bed, Chuck and Kori Doherty were relaxing in their family room talking about their wonderful life together.

“We were talking about being old and gray together and sitting on our rocking chairs watching our grandkids run around,” recalled Kori. “I’ll never forget it.”

Less than 24 hours later, after an 8-mile jog around Windham, Chuck collapsed while walking up the driveway. Kori, seeing Chuck sprawled on the pavement from the kitchen window, tried everything, including CPR, before the ambulance arrived. But nothing worked. Chuck was dead. At age 34.

It’s been a tough 17 months for Kori, a native of Malden, Mass., and her children, Ryan, 6, and Amber, 4. Really tough.

“It pains me to see the hurt in my kids’ eyes when they ask me where their dad is and why isn’t he here,” said Kori. “It hurts me to hear them say, ‘I love you’ to me and know my husband won’t hear those words.

“Every time one of them hits a milestone — like my son going on the bus for the first time or scoring his first goal in soccer or getting his first hit in T-ball or riding his bike without training wheels, it hits me. Chuck would have been so happy to experience them with the kids.”

On Sunday, Sept. 15, in downtown Burlington, Mass., where Chuck grew up and attended schools, Kori, with much help from his family — brothers, Dan, Chris and John Doherty — will host the first 5K for CAD — Conquering Aortic Disease — in Chuck’s honor.

Chuck had been diagnosed years earlier with a bicuspid aortic valve — a common heart defect, affecting one in 50 people, that sometimes restricts the flow of blood to and from the heart. But he had long been monitored by a cardiologist and his condition seemed well under control, his wife said.

“The tough part is that it is such a common disease, yet nobody has ever heard of it,” she said. “We want to get the word out.”

Kori said Chuck, who graduated from the University of New Hampshire, was a good athlete, playing in local men’s basketball and flag football leagues, who took up running later in his life, following in his brothers’ footsteps. In 2010 he ran his first and only marathon, the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon. But his forte was the shorter distances, usually 5K races.

That made this race an easy choice when deciding what to do in Chuck’s name. It has also given Kori, a Boston College grad who is in her ninth year working full-time for a financial communications company, a chance to help others in her husband’s memory.

Chuck’s brothers, Chris and Dan, are the co-race directors.

“That’s why I’ve focused on the race and the foundation (the Charles A. Doherty Memorial Foundation), which focuses on the prevention of premature deaths related to bicuspid aortic valve disease (BAVD),” said Kori. “Personally, I needed something positive to focus my attention on. And this race has been good in that respect. I just don’t want other families to go through what we’ve had to go through.”

Despite the satisfaction this event has given her and the support from several neighbors and friends from Windham, as well as her family, Kori said she still feels the loss of Chuck deeply.

“Every night when we eat dinner and see the empty chair it reminds us that there are only three of us here,” said Kori. “Every night after I get the kids to bed and it’s just me, I really feel the loss of his companionship.

“I miss talking to him and raising our kids together and making family decisions together. Our lives have been forever changed and we all miss him immensely.”

If you want to run or donate What: The 5K for CAD.: Conquering Aortic Disease When: Sun., Sept. 15, 2013 Where: Tavern in the Square, downtown Burlington, Mass. Entry fee: $27 Note: All entrants receive a T-shirt More info or apply: http://cadmf.org/events/ or send email to CAD5k@yahoo.com Local sponsor: Northpointe Holdings, Inc., Windham, N.H.