Doug Gorse was a force

My friend and neighbor died on April 27, more than a year after he was diagnosed with cancer.
A record player
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Doug stops by after returning home from his first cancer surgery, August 2015.

In January, state Rep. John Payne announced that he would not seek re-election to his 106th District seat.

John has been my next-door neighbor for more than a decade. We both built homes in Deer Run across the street from Doug and Kay Gorse.

Doug had a 35-year career at Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, retiring in 2013 as a licensed control room operator. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer in December 2014 and had his first surgery in August.

You feel pretty powerless in that kind of situation, but giving Doug a good chuckle was something I could do. I created an ersatz campaign flyer with the heading, “Gorse is a force!: Doug Gorse for the 106th District,” and stuck it in his mailbox.

I included these Doug attributes:

  • Probably didn’t cause Three Mile Island partial meltdown
  • Rarely will choose golf links over legislative matters
  • Kinda resembles Tommy Smothers

If only laughter were the best medicine I would have imagined an entire campaign for him.

Twinkle in his eye

Doug died on April 27, a fact that those of us who knew and loved him are still coming to terms with. He was 63, which is young enough, but before his health problems he seemed a good decade younger than his age.

When my son, Jack, was younger, Doug thought nothing of tossing a football or shooting hoops with him. It wasn’t unusual for Doug to show up at our door with something Kay had baked; my wife, Sara, often greeted him as “little Dougie Gorse” as though a neighborhood kid were visiting.

I met Doug for the first time in fall 2000. My father and brother were installing the kitchen in our under-construction home when Doug stopped by.

Unprompted, Doug offered that rolls of paper towels could provide a short-term solution to curtain-less windows. I laughed it off, but he was serious. It was my first exposure to the twinkle in Doug’s eye and his can-do neighborliness.

A neighbor to count on

I don’t want to overstate how close we were. Doug worked a lot of crazy hours at TMI, he and Kay travelled a lot, they cared for Kay’s mother. Sara and I were busy with work and children.

Our relationship was as much about knowing you can count on your neighbors, that you look out for one another. It was Doug who helped me tune up my lawnmower, who replaced the end-fitting on my garden hose, who reminded all of us to clear snow from our furnace exhaust vents.

For New Year’s Eve 2014, just weeks after Doug’s cancer diagnosis, we invited neighbors over as we deep-fried a turkey for the first time. An hour before our guests were to arrive, the shower handle in our master bath broke off. Water continued to flow unless I turned the shut-off valve in the basement.

There was Doug, retrieving tools from his home to try to fix it.

That was Doug. He was sweet and sensitive and kind.

I miss him.


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