Godspeed, Father (A Colonel in Clover Update)
I wrote this post, about the first of the David Dudley Dowds, twenty-two months ago. Our father was the fourth David D. Dowd. Today I add to it, in a spirit of mournful celebration. Our father has died at the age of 87.
Dad was born on January 31, 1929 and passed on–not away–at three o'clock in the morning on August 4. A constellation of my siblings and I were able to be with Mom and Dad in Naples, Florida from the day his leukemia was detected. From diagnosis to the end took three weeks to the day. He suffered no pain. Dad was grateful for a productive life and his "beautiful family," as he referred to us.
Dad was born in Cleveland and grew up in Massillon, Ohio. He graduated from Washington High School (1947), and attended the College of Wooster (1951) and the University of Michigan Law School (1954). He served in the U.S. Army in the Judge Advocate General's Corps in Germany (1955-1957). He went on to a career in public service that included stints as a city councilman, county prosecutor, Ohio Court of Appeals Judge, Ohio Supreme Court, and a Federal District Court Judge (Northern District of Ohio) for the longest stretch of his career, from 1982 to 2014–when he retired at 85!
There will be a memorial service for him in the church he grew up in, Central Presbyterian in Massillon, on August 20 at 10:30 AM. His ashes will be interred in the ancestral graveyard in Seville, Ohio, along with his forebear, Colonel David Dudley Dowd No. 1 (about whom much more, below.)
The grief is fresh. At the moment, I have but this to say: our dad was an extremely capable and hardworking person, whose devotion to the law was fierce. But above all he argued a brief for a surpassing decency. Once when young I conveyed an unattractive pride in my own abilities in his presence. I have never forgotten his ungentle rebuke. "Douglas," he said, "don't be so sure of yourself. There is always somebody smarter, or stronger, or faster, or more talented. Always." This from a college valedictorian. He went on to stress that it's what a person does with what he's given that defines him. Stay humble, and get busy making something of yourself, he effectively commanded.
I have thought a lot about that credo over the years. Intelligence and talent are value-neutral. They're like having blue eyes or being left-handed. They have nothing to do with goodness and decency and moral grounding. Attorney Kevin McDonald–fellow Kenyonite, Kokosinger of slightly older vintage, and friend–represented a client in a massive eight-month trial before my dad in 1983-84. He sent a very gracious email to me yesterday. "Your Dad," he wrote, "was a great judge who could not hide that he was a fine person as well."
Careers can be wonderful things, and we are grateful for the many appreciations of Dad's work on the court which continue to appear. As his son, however, I admire his commitment to fairness, his willingness to do whatever it took, and the way he conducted himself as a person above all else. He was a great steward in the biblical sense of the term–as were his beloved brothers Jack and Jim, the latter of whom survives him.
Below, some colorful family history, illustrated.
October 2014. My older brother's name is David Dudley Dowd. So is my father's. I have a nephew by that name, and my grandfather answered to it, too. His father, "Dud," was the second, sire of the first. But for the virile dotage of "the Colonel," the progenitor, none of us would have walked the earth.
David Dudley Dowd No. 1 owned and operated a stagecoach that ran between Cleveland and Seville, Ohio in the late 19th century. He owned the Temperance Hotel, also in Seville, a town in Medina County. The Colonel earned his honorific during the Civil War, when he drilled troops in town. His obituary read, "During the times when 'general training' was in vogue, [Dowd] was Colonel of the 2d Regiment, 3d Brigade, 9th Div., O. M." His family was of Connecticut, particularly Old Saybrook, Madison, and Guilford, where a Doude had shown up in 1649 (Henry, from Kent, but possibly Irish passing as English) and from which certain later Dowds had moved to the Western Reserve–a strip of Northeastern Ohio. [This is why parts of NE Ohio really feel like Connecticut, and why the Midwestern United States actually begins at the far bank of the Cuyahoga, or the West Side of Cleveland.]
Despite his local prominence, the Colonel (that is, David Dudley Dowd No. 1) faced a problem. His first marriage, ended by the death of his wife Mary Harris Dowd, had produced two daughters and a son, Manfred, who married but did not father children.
David lacked a male heir, a carrier of the name. In his dotage, the Colonel took as Wife 2 a woman referred to in family lore as "the Widow Decker." She possessed a first name–Mary, like No. 1–but it doesn't come up much. Despite her nondescript title, the WD was plainly not without charms. The Colonel had a last go in him, and–at the age of 73–he produced a male descendant, David Dudley Dowd 2, later "Dud," otherwise known as "the last drop." But Dud evinced the Colonel's penultimate issue. Charles Augustus followed two years later. Dud and Charles lived until 1958 and '59, respectively.
God bless the Colonel.
I have been to Seville. There's a leafy ancestral graveyard called Mound Hill Cemetery at which I have paid my respects to DDD1.
The Colonel was fond of the monument he purchased, and which still stands: he had himself photographed next to it.
Aside from his burial site, several artifacts associated with the Colonel remain. One of them in recent years has passed to me, not quite by accident. As my folks thinned out their stuff in stages from one single family home to another in Massillon, Ohio (where I grew up) then to a condo, then finally off to South Florida, their library was carefully dispersed. Being a bibliophile and ephemera maven, I became the obvious choice to receive a handful of what others might have thought mouldering volumes, but to me were treasures.
One such book has yielded certain period curiosities, and one genuinely fabulous discovery. The curiosities first.
The Geological Survey of Ohio was published in 1873 "by authority of the legislature." How it ended up in the Colonel's library is unknown to me. Was geology a hobby? Would it have been useful to him in his affairs, when looking at property?
Own it he did: he signed the (blank) first page.
The best parts of the book are the beautifully colored maps. Both text pages and maps (I think) were printed on a letterpress. (The maps look engraved, but the paper is so thin and brittle that it seems impossible to have been printed wet, which intaglio engraving would have required. They may be chromolithographs--I'll have to go back and look at them again.) The colored blocks would have been printed first. In a few cases minor details are hand-colored. I have wondered how the palettes were developed.
The lettering and typography are of the period. So, too, is the diction. Note in the detail of Montgomery County, near Dayton, the designation "lunatic asylum," positioned near the Mad River, no less. Not far from the Soldier's Home, either, less than a decade after the end of the Civil War.
Finally, the wonderful moment: paging through the book in detail, I discovered, between page 562 and 563, a dried out four-leaf clover. If we assume that he was the one who placed it there, and that he did so around the time that luck (and the Widow Decker) brought him DDD2, that four leaf clover has been tucked in that book for 135 years. I put it back, and placed the volume on the bookshelf that holds six or seven of my very favorite books. Totems, really.
Gotta get me to Seville. And soon.
August 2016. I will in fact be in Seville before long, with my mother and siblings and my own family, to witness the interring of my father's ashes in the family plot. A wonderful setting, and a fitting spot for the most recent spiritual graduate in a long line of DDDs.