By BEVERLY STODDART, A NH Writer’s Life
In the first moments of The Shawshank Redemption, the 1994 film based on the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King, the main character, Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, is transported to a gruesome-looking prison called Shawshank. Andy is stripped naked and then hosed off by a stern guard wielding a firehose shooting a harsh spray of water at him. That stern guard was my classmate from high school, Dan Dowds. This is just one of the many discoveries I encountered when I began looking at Dan’s life. The movie was filmed at The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, where Dan worked as a firefighter and EMT.
I have a memory of Dan when he and I were seventeen and attending our final year at Shelby Senior High School, Shelby, Ohio, in 1972. The memory is still as vivid as it was when the incident occurred. I clearly remember standing at my locker, and Dan walked over to me and talked to me. So, what’s the big deal? Dan was a football star in high school. He was one of the cool kids and was as huge as you can imagine a high school footballer would be. I recall his grin as he spoke a few kind words to me.
The best way I can describe my younger self is to borrow from Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm” when he sings about “a creature void of form.” I lacked the words, style, money, and guidance that would have helped me become what I now call more human. I squeaked through high school, actually all the school grades, with the help of my lifelong friend, Vella King. She is part of the reason why I am writing about Dan Dowds now. We are having our 50th high school reunion in September, where she is one of the event’s organizers, and I will be attending.
Why did a few kind words in a hallway stick with me for so long? The words came from him out of nowhere. I had no interaction with Dan. I was one of the fringe people, and he was the center of the high school football universe. In all those years that followed, I always wanted to reach out to Dan and tell him thank you for the kind words. And in the lesson of don’t wait or hesitate to do so, Dan died from liver cancer on April 30, 2016. He was just 61 years old.
His death, the reunion, and the kind words made me want to know him and what kind of man he grew into all the more. And that’s when I got the sign. You know the sign I mean. It’s a still small voice we hear or a token of meaning found on the ground, and in this case, it was a posting by Dan’s younger brother, Matt, on Facebook. Matt posted a request on the Shelby Ohio Class of 1972 page asking Shelby High School alums to vote for Dan for the high school hall of distinction. He got the votes and posthumously received the honor.
I took the posting as a sign I needed to get the article written that I had been thinking about since I learned of Dan’s death. This is the result. And I discovered a minor act of kindness fifty years ago was just the tip of Dan’s life, and the days leading up to his death were spent in a truly thoughtful and meaningful way.
To get to the bottom of this mystery, I turned to his family, friends, and co-workers. Matt Dowds is Dan’s younger brother by eleven years. Julie Bly is Dan’s sister and is the middle child. When I asked her what kind of big brother he was during our Zoom call, she began to cry, the same issue I had with several interviews.
“He was very kind growing up and always looked out for me. You hear about siblings fighting all the time, and that wasn’t us. We never did fight. We always got along. Just being the big brother and being big, I always felt safe around him. We’d go to the local bars, and if some creep would come up, I’d go stand by Dan. They didn’t know he was my brother. Maybe they did, but they would leave me alone. We were best friends. We just hung out together. A lot of big brothers wouldn’t want their sister hanging out with them. He didn’t say or show he minded. He was a gentle, kind person.”
Nathan Dowds is Dan’s youngest son. He lives outside of Columbus, Ohio, and is the legal director of a media firm out of Washington DC.
The balance of the interviews includes Rich Banichar, our classmate and lifelong friend to Dan, Captain Dan Krizen, who took Dan on as a rookie firefighter at Station One in Mansfield and worked with him for about ten years; and finally, Chris Hafley, the Public Safety Department Coordinator at EHOVE Career Center where Dan taught adult education classes for firefighting, EMTs and paramedics.
High school football, college, the Army, and finally back home.
When I started researching Dan, I turned to the Mansfield News Journal, which “is the number one source for breaking news, sports, photos and videos in Mansfield, Richland County and Mid-Ohio.” In their online archives, I found no less than 36 stories about Dan reporting on his high school football stats and heroics and when he was a firefighter and EMT. He saved lives and won accolades and honors.
Rich Banichar, Dan’s lifelong friend and our 1972 classmate, remembers when Dan and his family moved into Shelby from Southern Ohio. “The main thing about him he was a big person. Everybody knew who he was. Right off the bat, I saw that he was a friendly person and that he had a sense of humor. He was someone you wanted to meet and be around. So, I was very impressed with him right from the start. I was a skinny tennis player in high school, and he was a big football player. We didn’t get to share that part of our lives. But I was a big fan of his, and I would sit in the stands watching our team play. And then questioning each other do you think Dan will make it to the NFL or make it to the pros because he was so big and so good? He did play college football for a year at Tennessee Tech. From there, things didn’t quite go as he would have hoped. So, he joined the Army for a number of years.”
Dan’s sister, Julie, was in the 1973 class just the year after us. Julie’s husband, Garry, also in the ’73 class, remembers playing football with Dan on the Whippet’s team. “When he was a senior, I was a junior, so we played on the same football team. He was a defensive tackle. He was a big guy, but he wasn’t so big around. He was all arms and legs. I was a running back and a linebacker. I don’t think I played with anybody else that had any more intensity than Dan Dowds. I have a couple examples that would display that. Jim Croce said you don’t mess around with Jim. You didn’t mess around with Gubba. Gubba was his nickname. Dan and my cousin, Terry Hamman, were two peas in a pod. They took care of business.”
Dan attended college at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tennessee, where the Golden Eagles celebrate their 100th anniversary this year. Matt explained that Dan “wasn’t in the right frame of mind and left college later in his freshman year.” From there, he joined the Army and spent the majority of his four years in Germany before returning to Shelby.
Rich picks up from here when he gets back home.
“I remember him telling me when he was going into the service he put down he wanted to be a medic, and they said with your size you’re more apt to carry heavy objects. He just laughed about it. His size kind of held him back from being accepted into what he really wanted to do. When he got out of the service, it was a time when we lived together. Dan, Mike Anderson, and I lived together in a farmhouse off Rock Road. Mike’s grandparents owned it. We paid $100 a month rent. That’s $33 each. My bills and rent and utilities were $50. Dan got into construction work, moving heavy objects. At that point, we were in our twenties, and I thought this is what Dan is going to do. Mike was a teacher. It was our years of sowing our wild oats. We had 60-some acres out in the woods and a farmhouse you couldn’t see from the road. It was a party place. Those were our heavy party years. No one was too serious about what they would do in life. We were getting by day by day. Mike was a schoolteacher, so he already was established with that.”
This is where Dan does something out of character. He abruptly moves out of the house, telling Rich that he’s moving to California without any explanation for the move.
“He just had some personal issues he was dealing with. That’s one thing about Dan; he was very private. He was friendly. He was never a boy and treated everyone well. I never got to know that side of him during that time. We didn’t have any deep talks or anything like that. He was into nature. I remember him buying a book about Ohio wildflowers, and he was going out to explore the area with his book. I thought, oh, that’s different. This guy is noted for his size and strength, and here he is caring about flowers. I know a lot of other people didn’t know that about Dan. He moved out to California, and I struggled with my drinking, and I moved out of the farmhouse. It was a couple of years, and I went to AA at 26 years old. I’m an alcoholic. I changed my life around and, by the will of God, have been sober since. I was separated from Dan for a number of years, and he called me up and told me he was moving back to Shelby and that he had some similar issues that I had, and he wanted to talk with me. That’s when we started getting a more in-depth relationship through that. I got to know the other side of Dan.”
Dan as a father.
Matt picks up when his brother came back home from California and talks about how Dan married Cindy, the girl next door and best friend of sister Julie.
“Theirs is a very great interesting story. A sad story with him passing. Dan and Cindy’s marriage ended in 2012, but they remained dear friends. When Dan came back from the Army, he wasn’t in Shelby long, but he went to California, and he did construction. He and Cindy stayed in touch as they had been close friends since they were in their early teens. I remember Mom and Julie and I, one summer, drove out to California to see Dan, and he and Cindy were talking a lot. He came back later that year or the next year, and then shortly after that, they got married. Dan adopted Cindy’s two little boys from a previous marriage (Travis, a commercial fisherman, and Shawn, an IT architect with Getty Images), and he was their Dad. Then they had Nathan.
I asked Nathan to talk about what kind of father Dan was. He immediately said, “Great. I mean it.”
“He was all in on being a dad. Not only did he come to every football game and wrestling match I had, he came to the practices. We’d be practicing, and the only person on the sidelines would be my giant dad standing there silently watching us. That’s part of how he formed such close relationships with the other boys in my class. He was always there. He was a good athlete, so people respected him if he told them something. He was very supportive. His demeanor didn’t match his appearance. He was a sweet, kind, thoughtful person that lived to serve other people. That was his way and reason for existing.”
“I remember him taking me and my brothers and cousins and our dog in the bed of his truck and driving out to a pond on George Hawk Road and letting us all swim together. That’s my early memories of Dad of us in the water. I remember one of my favorite ones may be one of my earliest ones. I was too young to swim, and he let me clamp onto his back while he would breaststroke through the water, and I would ride him like he was some type of seahorse. I have very early memories of him going underwater and me trying to hold my breath and stay attached to him and having to bail when I couldn’t.”
“Even amongst my friends, he had very close relationships with all my friends growing up. My dad was just known as the great Dad. He took an interest in everyone. He showed up for everything. He had a kind of intimidating presence that was impressive to young men. My dad was a fatherly icon in my class at Shelby. He made himself present and wasn’t shy.”
“To cut right to it from the beginning, I think he derived his value and self-worth from his usefulness to others. That was his thing. They say there is no such thing as altruism. He’s a good example of what made him tick, what made him proud, and what made him wake up and work hard if he thought he was useful to others. It made him shine. It was his driving factor in life. No question. An anecdote from early in my life, when I was a teenage boy, and I was maybe naturally good at a sport or a certain subject in school. He would say something to me about practicing harder or studying harder, and I being a teenage boy, would say something like this kid doesn’t stand a chance against me. I could sleep all week, and I’m still going to be…you know, anything like that. Or guess what, Dad, I didn’t study, and I still got an A.”
“Anything like that was his taboo and his trigger for me. He would always say my entire life that you were born smart and strong, and you didn’t do anything to deserve it, so you can’t be proud of it. You can only be proud of the things you worked to accomplish. You can’t be proud of the roll of the dice that landed in your favor because you were fortunate enough to be born this way. For the rest of your life, you owe it to people less fortunate than you to use your gifts to benefit them in their service. That was his thing. He was fixated on that, truly. You can’t bully someone. If there is someone getting bullied, you need to be the one to step in between the bully and set things straight and consistently from beginning to end of his life; that was his message to me. He envisioned us Dowds boys as good guys, and while he was pretty loose with me overall, he wouldn’t tolerate any deviation from that. And now that I’m older and a father myself, I see how beautiful that is and how well it has served me in my life and given me purpose to enjoy in my life, the same that it gave him.”
I add that what Nathan is saying, this philosophy he instilled in him, was what he was doing as a seventeen-year-old boy with me that day in the hallway in high school.
“If he could hear you, there is no exaggeration that I can’t think of anything that would make him happier and feel more proud than hearing this because, in the times in his life when he wasn’t the right thing, and maybe he was a teenage boy and not as nice as he should have been, he carried it with him his entire life and was ashamed of it and would reference it to me when I was doing silly things that you are going to regret forever. Save yourself the years of regret.”
Working at the Mansfield Fire Department as a firefighter, EMT, and paramedic.
Dan finally found his calling as a fireman and EMT, and paramedic. Matt explained that Dan impacted people in their careers, emphasizing, “anybody would tell you this.” Matt offers to explain this, where he was affecting lives by being a particular kind of person.
“When I was home for Christmas break, he was so excited for me to spend a day with him on his shift. This happened a couple of times. Of course, non-firemen, non-EMTs, normally don’t or can’t just ride with them like that, but I was Dan’s brother, so there was no question from anyone about me joining them. I know that Dan really wanted me to see and experience the needs of the people in this community. Knowing Dan, I also know his hopes were that this experience would impact me and help me recognize the needs of those on the margins in our community and how to love and serve them. It did, and he knew that which is a good memory.”
“The Mansfield Fire Department. I think it was Station One; it was the one near downtown near the very poor parts, so he spent a lot of time. [Firefighters] are called because older people lost their medicine, or there’s something going on domestically—things like that they’re called for an EMT. Dan would be called regularly. I think they called the fire department because of how comforting he was. The old ladies, whoever, and I experienced that when I went out with him a couple of times, I saw that. I think it was on two different occasions, and one of the times, there were several stops like that. And the other firemen told me they said, you know it’s your brother. People, instead of calling the emergency room, which people would often do, they called the fire department because they knew Dan would come and talk to them and make them feel better and care about them.”
Nathan also spoke about Dan’s compassion for the people of Mansfield when we talked, and I said Mansfield is a tough area.
“The fire department runs the ambulance company in Mansfield. Most of a firefighter’s job in Mansfield is car wrecks, heart attacks, stabbings, and shootings; that was always his passion. Everyone loves the fire because it’s thrilling and a big adrenaline rush, but Dad’s real passion was being the paramedic on the scene. And that was like his badge. He wanted the more difficult work of it. He felt like, when we would drive through areas of Mansfield, he knew them so well because the truth is police and fire spend most of their time in the specific neighborhoods in cities like that. He felt a kinship. He felt like they were his people, I guess. He wouldn’t talk down on those people. He would say he’s run on generations of families. Families with addiction problems. He had run on grandpa, mom, and son over his career. He got to know them in a very unique way.”
Yet, the saddest story of Dan’s compassion came from his sister, Julie. It speaks to who you want to be there in your most disastrous time of need.
“In Mansfield, there was a house fire. It was not in a good part of town, and two boys were in the house. They were told they couldn’t find them. Dan wouldn’t leave until he found the boys. They didn’t make it. But Dan wouldn’t leave until he found the boys’ bodies. He brought them out.”
According to Nathan, his Dad had multiple back and neck surgeries over his career, leading him to his retirement fighting fires, but he remained active as an EMT and paramedic.
Rich Banichar also spoke about Dan’s career.
“It was a great move for Dan and his life, and that is when he really got success to help people and being a firefighter. Dan started as a firefighter, and I think the EMT training went along with it. You have to be able to, right on the spot, assist people. He was more of a firefighter at that time. Over the years, it affected his health. Being a large person, he was carrying people out of buildings, and you know, doing that where they would hang on to his arms and around the neck, and he’d go around the fire escape steps carrying people. He really did a lot of heroic things. He never bragged about it. He told me sometimes you save the babies and sometimes you don’t. That’s what he told me one time. He saw some terrible things that can happen with fire. I think he had this thing in him that he was a deeper thinking person, and he dealt with life and death at the highest levels at that time. I was happy for him and looked up to him for doing those things. The ones [who] are doing those things that are in the battles day in and day out; you really have to appreciate them.”
This understanding of Dan is confirmed by Captain Dan Krizen, who took Dan on as a rookie when he came onto the Mansfield Fire Department. Captain Krizen worked at Station One for over thirty years, working with Dan for nearly ten years. I asked Captain Krizen what kind of firefighter he was.
“He was a good firefighter. [There were] very few people I enjoy fighting fire with, and he was the exception. When things got bad, and they do, some people have a tendency to leave you. And Dan never left me in a burning building. They’d get scared, and maybe they think I’m a little bit crazy, but he always stayed with me.”
Dan was an EMT and then progressed to being a paramedic. Captain Krizen continued, “That’s the highest you can get. And that was his calling. I attribute that a lot to his mother because she was a nurse. I can only imagine around the supper table the kind of talks they had.”
“[People] would always ask is Dan coming? Is Dan working today? It makes no difference if he worked on someone who was a millionaire or a hobo; he had great compassion for everybody. Yes, we worked a lot in the poorer part of Mansfield. That’s Station Six, but when they go on a call, Station One would always go with them. There were just a bunch of fires in Madison Township. We got to fight a lot of fires that way.”
“I enjoyed my time with Dan. I think he taught me as much as I taught him. [There were] very few people you know that I enjoyed fighting fire with than Dan. What Dan did, he did exceptionally well.”
EHOVE Career Center
The mission statement on ehove.net reads: Preparing the future workforce for in-demand careers through skilled hands-on education. The programs include health science, art and technology, public safety, engineering and trades, business, education, and transportation systems.
Chris Hafley is the Public Safety Department Coordinator at EHOVE Career Center in Milan, Ohio, where Dan taught adult education classes for firefighting, EMTs, and paramedics. In our conversation, I started by asking what EHOVE is.
“EHOVE stands for Erie Huron Ottawa Vocational Education. It’s a 3-county vocational school that supports those three counties. It’s also a high school. We have an adult education program. The high school would send a kid who wants to become an EMT here and get his EMT through the high school. Dan taught only on the adult education side, normally nighttime and evenings. We always had adult education, fire, EMS, and police. On the high school side, they were always here, but eventually, they started teaching EMS and fire during daytime hours. Dan didn’t want to teach in the high school. He wanted to teach the guys that would be out in the field and work alongside him.”
“If you talk to Mansfield, they’re going to tell you that he was a great firefighter. On our side of the teaching EMS and how I [got to] know him, we went through instructor training together with myself and three other firefighters that went through training to teach EMS in Ohio.”
“Dan was one of those persons you got drawn to right away. I didn’t know him real well until we started teaching here at the time. We were teaching basic EMT and all that. We were just two or three years into it, and then he and I [plus one other] said, why can’t we teach paramedic? Dan ended up being the primary instructor in the paramedic program. He was liked by pretty much all the students. The students were drawn to Dan because of his demeanor and how he treated people with kindness.”
“One of the things we kidded about with him was you have medical terminology that students have to learn well. Dan used some of his own terminology, and we called those Dowdisms. He was a dependable instructor. He always was prepared. He did things that were different but would maybe get across the idea or knowledge that he needed to get across to the student. Nowadays, we can purchase equipment to show these students stuff that is anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. Dan was actually creating it himself.”
“He created a little skill thing. I think he used a golf cart inner tube with the students to show needle decompression. You have a collapsed lung, and paramedics are allowed to do a needle decompression. We didn’t have any means of showing what it was actually like. He took this golf cart’s inner tube tire, went out and bought a slab of beef ribs, and slapped it on top of it. I think he had a chamois on top of the beef ribs, and he taught the students how to find a location to insert the needle. They inserted into the chamois, into the beef ribs, into the tube which was supposed to be the lungs, and they’d hear the air come out, which is what we normally tell them will happen. He gets done with that student, puts some quick seal on that, and loads up again for the next student. It was a real down-and-dirty way of showing a student how something would be out in the field or similar to it. He spent probably $20 at the most where is nowadays we’re expected to spend anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 for a piece of equipment that does the same thing.”
“He was ingenious in how he created things like that and was able to deliver the material to the students in a way they could understand it. Although the Dowdisms we talked about them, you talk to any student that had him would remember he had this vocabulary that was different. He made the class very interesting. Great co-worker, great guy to talk to and be with and teach alongside.”
To complete this circle of life, we have to explore how a man of Dan’s caliber deals with the knowledge that he has a short time left to live. Everyone agrees that Dan was a private person. And in this need for privacy, he struggled with how to tell his family, his sons. To that struggle, he turned to Chris Hafley.
“I truly remember the day he came into the office. Our class always started at 5:00, and he came in around 3:30 before he was going to teach. He sat down at the desk next to me, and he just looked over. He always called me boss. He said I’ve got something to tell you. He sat quiet a little bit, and then he said I just want to let you know I have cancer. That set me back. I asked him what kind, and he told me what it was and not a lot to do for it. I think he had been getting treatment prior to me knowing that he had it. He told me that I had to keep it quiet. So, I said well, who knows? And he said, you. I said what, you haven’t told your family? You haven’t told the boys? He said nope. I don’t really want them to know and worry about it. I said Dan, you’re going to hear something out of my mouth you don’t want to hear, but you owe the boys to tell them. You owe that to them, and you need to do that, so however long you have, they can experience the most time with you. And they can be with you. Well, he said, I don’t know. I’ll have to think about that. In this case, with this cancer, he didn’t want to burden anybody. I came back the next day, and he was teaching, and he said, thanks for pushing me to tell the boys. It was the right thing to do, and I needed that. I don’t remember how much time he taught after that, but he did say he was going to resign and go out to the West Coast and finish out his time out there with his kids. He did what he needed to do.”
Dan’s diagnosis was liver cancer. And while I explored with everyone how they think he got it, he also had Hepatitis C he picked up some time while he was in California. He had been a drinker, typical for many in my small Ohio hometown, and that probably affected his liver. Matt said he would have to get blood transfusions and added, “his liver had kind of lived [through] a rough life.”
Matt added, “Liver cancer. It was just discovered late, or he revealed it to us late, and he went through two rounds of chemo, different types. He was down at the Ohio State University, James Cancer Hospital, and the doctor said that last round of chemo didn’t do anything. This is terminal and not worth us continuing to make him sick trying to reduce it.”
Cynthia Dowds Warmington is Dan’s ex-wife. They were married for over thirty years, and she has an amazing career of her own. She has had a decades-long nursing career, including work in both oncology and family medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. There was no better person for Dan to turn to in his final days when he knew he would need hospice.
“Cindy was essentially the hospice. She took time off work and was with him the last month. We were all there, of course,” Matt added.
With Cindy’s background and all of Dan’s sons living on the West Coast, Dan and the family made a plan.
Nathan explains. “That leads to a good story. The nice part about knowing you’re on a clock and not flailing to stay alive is we could capitalize on it. So, my middle brother Travis and I packed up everything my Dad had and had a big yard sale, sold a ton of it. We rented the biggest RV we could, and we drove from Shelby all through the country and ended up in Portland, Oregon, on a fun road trip. We went to all the national parks on the way and cut down into the Southwest, and I think we made the best of a bad circumstance. I rented an Air B&B house when we got there, and that’s where he died. Dad died in Portland, Oregon.”
I asked Nathan how he thought Dan got liver cancer.
“I think anytime a firefighter gets cancer, and they blame it on being a firefighter. That certainly is plausible, but we didn’t have time to consider or worry about it. We thought, damn, he has a month or two left to live. We didn’t have time to worry about that. My Dad was not the type to worry about any of that. It is [a] what it is mentality. And [the last couple of months] they were pretty good. The last week or two of his life was hard when his body started to shut down, and he was losing his ability to interact with people. That was difficult. But up until that part, it was awesome. We had a pickup truck and this big RV, and we drove all over and stayed wherever we wanted. I slept in the bed of the pickup truck. Dad slept in the RV. My nephew, Travis’s son, came with us, and he and my Dad were very close. I think we made the best of it. Internally for me and my brother, there was a lot of anxiety about how we would handle this. Our Dad is dying, and we were playing nurse. And neither of us are particularly well suited for that. But it worked out. My dad was the last person that needed a nurse.”
When I asked Nathan what day Dan died, he replied, “I don’t know.”
“I’ve intentionally not honored it or thought about it. My dad and I handled things like this the same way. Care about them. Think about them in the moment, and then do your best to avoid them the rest of your life. Certainly isn’t the best mechanism I have, but it’s the one I’ve got. How many of us are lucky enough to find careers where we truly love it for 30 or 40 years? That’s rare.”
“Matt described him as a private person. I don’t know if he was a private person as much as really humble. His idea of what a man was and what type of man he was about was being quiet and not bragging. This type of story, he’d still be embarrassed to have his name mentioned. I can’t think of something more he would enjoy being said about than this. This is who he truly was and what he truly valued. In so many cases, he was known as big and scary, but that’s not who he was. Who he was, was a sweetheart that wanted to help people and to be kind.”
I asked if he would say Dan accomplished that.
“That’s right. In such a simple and humble way, there is a lesson in that, particularly for young people striving for grandiosity, maybe that’s not the path to take. There are other ways to be fulfilled.”
Lifelong friend Rich Banichar shared the number of fire captains who learned under Dan as part of Dan’s legacy.
“There’s something like eight or ten fire captains that learned under Dan as novices and became captains at other fire departments. He was very thorough in his teaching and very disciplined. If you weren’t up to his standards, he wouldn’t even let you in the class. He laid down a hard law. Begin with his size, and people thought, well, I better listen to Dan.”
Dan’s legacy includes The Dan Dowds Memorial Scholarship yearly fish fry.
Chris Hafley explains.
“Dan had created such a legacy at the school, the paramedic program, and everybody knew they would be taught by, as some students said, the greatest, Dan Dowds. He had created that much of a legacy here. So a few months after his death, I talked to Travis and Matt about it would be cool if we could do a scholarship in his name. I did some research on that, and then Travis came up with this idea about this fish fry. He would bring back fish from his business and have this fish fry. He’s an Alaskan commercial fisherman. I don’t know how it was going to go; you know you have no idea how much it would create. But at that first fundraiser was when I really found out that he was very well known, very well loved by people and the money just kept coming in.”
“I think we gave $2,000 out each time; it’s usually $1,000 to two students, and they have to be 50% done with the program and passing before they can apply. The families left it up to me to decide who gets it, so I try to make sure I pick students who are going to continue to be successful and go out there and practice the art of paramedicine. We’re on our third year that we distributed. It is an art you have to fit this position. It’s a lot of knowledge and training, and that’s what he was good at.”
“You know how big he was. He was a big guy. Can you imagine him going into these little elderly houses to take care of these little elderly ladies and gentlemen? This big guy comes walking in the door. He was a very compassionate guy; that’s what I would have to say is what he was.”
Dan was cremated, and his ashes were distributed in the Pacific Ocean in a private family ceremony.
ADDENDUM: The Dan Dowds Memorial Fish Fry will take place on Saturday, August 27, 2022, from 4:00 to 7:00 pm at the Shelby Knights of Columbus, 250 Vernon Rd., Shelby, Ohio, featuring Alaskan halibut and salmon, to benefit the first responders’ scholarship.
Beverly Stoddart is a writer, author, and speaker. After 42 years of working at newspapers, she retired to write books and a blog. She is on the Board of Trustees of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project and is a member of the Winning Speakers Toastmasters group in Windham and the Ohio Writers’ Association. Her latest book is Stories from the Rolodex, mini-memoirs of journalists from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. A prized accomplishment was winning Carl Kassel’s voice for her voice mail when she won the National Public Radio game, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! She has been married for 45 years to her husband, Michael, and has one son and two rescue dogs.