TAMPA — If a customer couldn’t pay the cab fare, it wasn’t unusual for John Dooley to forgive the debt. Or maybe the passenger would give him a shirt, a radio or lamp, which he’d accept as payment.
John Dooley didn’t work for Yellow Cab of Tampa for more than 30 years for the money, said his sister, Janet Dooley, of San Diego, Calif.
“He was just the most caring person I know,” Janet Dooley said. “He was going to work until the end, which he did.’’
Last month, Dooley was fatally shot after he picked up three men in his cab in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood.
On what would have been his 57th birthday, dozens of family, friends and co-workers came together Thursday afternoon at the Howard Johnson’s Ballroom in downtown Tampa to remember and celebrate Dooley’s life and his 32 years as a cab driver.
While other taxi drivers preferred more affluent neighborhoods, Dooley, 56, of Hudson, always worked in East Tampa. He liked serving the working class and felt an obligation to assist them, said his longtime friend, Donald Daughtry. For years, Dooley and Daughtry shared a cab. Daughtry drove in the day; Dooley drove at night.
Dooley was a kind man and believed it was important not to carry anger, said Daughtry, 83, of Tampa.
“If he had survived, I don’t think he would have become bitter and hated the people who attacked him,” Daughtry said. “He would have been satisfied with justice and not demanded vengeance.”
Outside the taxi business, Dooley was a music fan, particularly enjoying the Grateful Dead. He also enjoyed sports and was an accomplished pool player.
Louis Minardi, president of Yellow Cab of Tampa, said Dooley was known for his dependability.
With more than 200 taxi cab drivers, Minardi counted on Dooley to drive his three children when they were young. He also sometimes asked him to drive his parents when they were too old to drive, he said.
“We don’t have a driver better than that guy,” Minardi said. “It’s very unfortunate the way it ended. They could have asked. He would have given (the money) to them.”
Last month, Tampa police arrested Devante Bell and charged him with robbery and first-degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting. Police are trying to identify the other two men they said were involved in the slaying. The motive was robbery, police said.
Minardi said his company is looking at safety features such as cameras in the taxi cabs or exterior distress lights on the vehicles. But no change can completely stop criminal acts against taxi drivers, he said.
“They have you set up when they call you,” Minardi said. “It’s like banks. People are still robbing banks.”