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Memorial Celebration for Terry Dowling
By Steve Steinberg
Death claimed the life earlier this year of one of Noe Valley's favorite bartenders and guitarists, Terry Dowling. Dowling died Feb. 21 after suffering an unexpected, massive heart attack while walking his dog near his home in Bernal Heights. He was 56 years old and had had no apparent health problems.
Dowling had worked for the past five years at the Dubliner bar, 3838 24th Street, where he had been one of the establishment's most popular bartenders.
"He was one of the best bartenders we've had here," said Vince Hogan, the Dubliner's owner. "He was irreplaceable; you just can't replace the man," added Hogan.
Hogan said he was totally shocked at his passing. "I really miss him."
A co-worker at the Dubliner, Rikki O'Keefe, called Dowling "a great fellow, a total individual.... He was himself -- there was nobody like him." Dowling, she said, had his own regular crowd of customers who came in to see him every day.
Dowling was famous, Hogan noted, for his martinis. He even named his beloved bull terrier, Gibson, after the martini cocktail. He was also known for his huge, fluffy handlebar moustache, which he sported most of his adult life. In addition to the Dubliner, Dowling also worked at Noe's Bar and the former Rover's Inn (now Bliss Bar).
He is survived by his wife of 15 years, Corinne, who said the two met in 1974 at the Boarding House, a famous bar on Bush Street, now closed, where Dowling worked for a time. The couple bought a house together in Bernal Heights in 1985. Corinne also has a grown daughter, Maura.
One of six brothers, Dowling was born in San Francisco and raised in the city's Sunset District, attending Riordan High School and the former Polytechnic High School. After high school he went to St. Mary's College in Moraga.
Corinne described her husband as "a very special man, a great listener who never passed judgment on people." Although he was a career bartender, music was Dowling's first love. "He was a wonderful guitar player," said Corinne.
Her husband, she said, was also a student of music, who knew all about the history of the guitar and could tell you everything about a particular instrument. "He had an incredible knowledge of music -- blues, jazz, country." Blues, however, was his preferred choice, noted Corinne.
Dowling played guitar with a local group called Jimmy and the Weasels, which was a favorite at the Noe Valley Music Festival each November.
Jim Leal, manager of West Coast Video at 24th and Church streets, who played with Dowling in the Weasels, remembers him as "having a real big heart, someone who could get along with anyone." Leal also said that Dowling was "the glue" that held the Weasels together. "He was the one people came to see."
Dowling was also an accomplished softball player and coached his own women's softball team for 15 years. "The team was his pride and joy," said Corinne.
A celebration of Terry Dowling's life will be held at the Dubliner on Sunday, June 24, at 2 p.m.