Politics & Policy

Dorwan Stoddard, RIP

An overlooked story of heroism

Dorwan Stoddard and his wife, Mavanell, grew up together as friends in Tucson, and were high-school sweethearts in the 1950s. The two parted, moved away, and married others. But 15 years ago, having survived the death of their spouses, the two were reunited — and then married — in their hometown.

When Jared Loughner began firing on the crowd gathered around Rep. Gabrielle Gifford at the Safeway supermarket in Tucson on Saturday, Mavanell thought the sounds came from firecrackers. Dorwan knew otherwise and quickly pulled his wife to the ground and threw himself over her. Mavy — as she is known to her friends — was hit three times in the legs, and is now in stable condition and expected to survive. Dorwan was shot, fatally, through the head, at the age of 76. Dorwan was memorialized at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ — a small Tucson-area church where he and Mavy had worshipped and served — on Sunday.

#ad#Trading his life for his wife’s was Dorwan’s final act, after which he could manage no final words. Rev. Mike Nowak, the pastor of Mountain Avenue Church of Christ, visited Mavy at the University Medical Center, to which she and Dorwan were both rushed, and she spoke about the aftermath of the attack: “She talked to him for ten minutes as he breathed heavily. He never talked back to her.”

In pictures, Dorwan typically wears a bolo tie, a white cowboy hat, and a graying beard, and keeps his arm firmly around his wife. He had retired from a career as a construction worker, and had since freely employed his skills repairing and rebuilding their church. A sign for “Dory’s Room” — styled after his affectionate nickname — marks one of his own creations, during the construction of which he fell off a high ladder. Against church members’ expectations, Dorwan survived the fall, but he needed 17 stents.

Dorwan and Mavy led the church’s “benevolence committee,” a group devoted to helping the poor. The Stoddards helped care for sick church members and provided transportation for those who needed it. Several friends and church members praised their work on the committee as Christian charity. The couple didn’t just write checks; they sought out those in need, listened to their problems, and offered their friendship as well as their financial support. Several people stood up at the funeral services to speak of how Dorwan had helped them. Kat Joplin said she had been homeless until the Stoddards helped her and her husband get off the streets, into a motel room, and eventually, onto a payroll. The Joplins even stayed at the Stoddard’s own home for a time.

Friends described Dorwan as an enthusiastic Arizona Wildcats fan, and pictures show Dorwan at the piano at a church picnic.

Nowak said that Mavy credits Dorwan with saving her life, and had joked from her hospital bed that “Dory will never have to worry about another stent again.”  Nowak described their relationship for KGU9: “They were inseparable. You saw one and you knew the other one wasn’t far behind. That will be a whole other life for her, so I’m afraid it will hit her harder down the road.”

Dory and Mavy “didn’t write any books. There are no streets named after them. There is no monument to them, but their impact in the community of Tucson will last a lifetime,” Nowak said.

Dorwan Stoddard is survived by two sons, four stepdaughters, and his wife.

— Matthew Shaffer is a William F. Buckley fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Elections

Kamala Harris Runs for Queen

I’m going to let you in on a secret about the 2020 presidential contest: Unless unforeseen circumstances lead to a true wave election, the legislative stakes will be extremely low. The odds are heavily stacked against Democrats’ retaking the Senate, and that means that even if a Democrat wins the White House, ... Read More
Energy & Environment

The Climate Trap for Democrats

The more the climate debate changes, the more it stays the same. Polls show that the public is worried about climate change, but that doesn’t mean that it is any more ready to bear any burden or pay any price to combat it. If President Donald Trump claws his way to victory again in Pennsylvania and the ... Read More
Culture

What We’ve Learned about Jussie Smollett

It’s been a few weeks since March 26, when all charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and the actor declared that his version of events had been proven correct. How’s that going? Smollett’s celebrity defenders have gone quiet. His publicists and lawyers are dodging reporters. The @StandwithJussie ... Read More
Politics & Policy

But Why Is Guatemala Hungry?

I really, really don’t want to be on the “Nicolas Kristof Wrote Something Dumb” beat, but, Jiminy Cricket! Kristof has taken a trip to Guatemala, with a young woman from Arizona State University in tow. “My annual win-a-trip journey,” he writes. Reporting from Guatemala, he discovers that many ... Read More
White House

Sarah Sanders to Resign at End of June

Sarah Huckabee Sanders will resign from her position as White House press secretary at the end of the month, President Trump announced on Twitter Thursday afternoon. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1139263782142787585 Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, succeeded Sean ... Read More
Politics & Policy

On Painting Air Force One

And so it has come to this. Two oil tankers were just attacked in the Gulf of Oman, presumably by Iran. The United States and China are facing off in a confrontation that is about far more than trade. The southern border remains anarchic and uncontrolled. And Congress is asking: “Can I get the icon in ... Read More