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Warren Doolin, retired Channel 5 cameraman

Videographer Warren Doolin, giving a few tips of the trade to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. Videographer Warren Doolin, giving a few tips of the trade to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. (Globe/ File 2004)
By J.M. Lawrence
Globe Correspondent / July 22, 2009

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A longtime WCVB cameraman who had his ear tuned to police radios, Warren J. Doolin Jr. beat Boston police to a scene four years ago where a lone officer was in distress.

A pair of suspects was double-teaming the officer. Mr. Doolin, who was in his 60s at the time, put down his camera and wrestled one of the men until more police officers arrived.

“He had a gruff exterior, but he had such a great heart,’’ said WCVB news assignment editor Nancy Bent. “He would come to the rescue of anyone.’’

Mr. Doolin, an Easton resident who chased news in Boston for more than 30 years and earned a police commissioner’s commendation for his assistance during the 2005 incident, collapsed Monday morning while playing tennis with Don Mitchell, another retired Channel 5 cameraman. He was pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton. He was 71.

“He was just a great person and a terrific news gatherer,’’ said fellow WCVB cameraman Stanley Forman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

Mr. Doolin was remembered yesterday as an old-school newsman who in July 1986 wound up in the hospital after coming to the rescue of an injured bicyclist.

A motorist, who had struck the bicyclist on Huntington Avenue, attacked and beat Mr. Doolin in the street. Mr. Doolin suffered cuts and bruises. The bicyclist was Charles Vest, who later became president of MIT, Bent said.

Mr. Doolin reluctantly retired from WCVB three years ago when the station offered a buyout. Former WCVB reporter David Boeri called Mr. Doolin “an absolute legend’’ in local news.

“We did everything together. It was typical TV tableau - fires, car crashes, mob trials,’’ Boeri said. “I don’t think there was a more popular photographer in this city. Everybody knew him by name. He epitomized what was the best in local news. He had a real sense of the history of this place and the individuals, both the talking heads and the people on the street.’’

Mr. Doolin began filming news in the 1960s for Channel 7, at a time when cameramen were required to wear blazers carrying the station’s logo. He went to work at Channel 5 in the early 1970s.

He always carried a small cooler for his lunch, often sharing Diet Cokes and peanut butter crackers with a reporter while on a story. He shepherded many Channel 5 reporters around the city, including sports anchor Mike Lynch, who started at the station in 1982.

“He held my hand and got me through,’’ Lynch said at the end of the station’s 6 o’clock newscast Monday, before giving a salute and adding, “Rest in peace, Dooley.’’

Mr. Doolin was remembered for his ability to crack jokes and make others smile, even if they weren’t sure exactly what they were laughing about.

“He was one of those people who I think just lived to laugh,’’ said WCVB reporter Jack Harper. “He was a character.’’

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said, “You always had some comic relief when he was around.’’

Menino recalled Mr. Doolin panicked several years ago when he missed the start of a road race for children at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain. The mayor said he got on a megaphone and gathered the runners to reenact the start for Mr. Doolin’s camera. “I didn’t want him getting fired,’’ Menino said.

Mr. Doolin’s wife for 26 years, Faye (Katz), said her husband loved his work.

“He loved covering it all, except you could always tell when it was a bad one or when it was something bad involving kids, because he would come home and be quiet and sad,’’ she said.

The couple had one son, Matt.

“He brought this camera to every soccer game, every tennis match,’’ she said. “If he wasn’t working, that’s where he was.’’

Mr. Doolin could be extremely private about his past. His wife said she believed he was in Vietnam during the war but she did not know any details. “There were pieces of Warren he didn’t talk about,’’ she said.

Born in Boston, Mr. Doolin was the only son of a truck driver.

Mr. Doolin’s first marriage to Diane Doolin of Malden ended in divorce. They had three children.

Matt Doolin said his father was a devoted parent and harsh critic when his son first picked up a video camera to shoot a music video as a teen. “I learned about work ethic a lot from him,’’ Matt said. “He cared every day what he was doing.’’

Mr. Doolin would become so intense at his son’s high school tennis matches that Matt Doolin jokingly ordered him to stay 25 feet from the court. Mr. Doolin then showed up at the fence wearing tape across his mouth.

Father and son often played the sport together. “The tennis court was where we talked about a lot of things and had fun,’’ said Matt, who lives in Washington, D.C., where he is an assignment editor for Comcast Sports Net.

Mitchell, a Dedham resident with whom Mr. Doolin was playing tennis when he collapsed, said his friend helped him become one of the first black TV cameramen in Boston in the 1960s. He and Mr. Doolin retired on the same day from WCVB.

“He was instrumental in helping me,’’ Mitchell said. “He was always kind and thoughtful.’’

In addition to his wife and son. Mr. Doolin leaves his daughter Tracey of New York City and sons Joseph of North Reading and Warren III of Malden.

A graveside service will be held at 11:45 a.m. tomorrow at Sharon Memorial Park.