Joe Dodson A True Calvert County Son
This week’s personality is really one of the good guys of the County who was born right here in Rousby Hall seventy six years ago. Joe Dodson is a name most of you will recognize as he has been intimate in so many organizations and events that have taken place throughout this grand county of ours for many decades. A real friendly gent with a true boyish grin, Joe is the guy that will actually give you the shirt off is back should you need it. I have been asked by many when would I get around to telling Joe’s story, so I finally convinced him we should go have coffee one day and have him tell me stories about himself that I could reveal in this small column of mine. After some nudging, I was able to get him to start talking and dang if he wasn’t just as funny and easy to talk with as I was told by many off his friends and family. I knew I was in for a treat!
Joe was born right here in Lusby on a warm summer day in June, 1939 to Spencer and Sarah Dodson. To hear Aunt Pat tell the story, it really was a hot day and she was outside playing with their cousin Wayne Joy. All of a sudden, the Doctor showed up and they could hear Sarah screaming through the bedroom window. Pat and Wayne became very upset thinking Joe’s mom was getting her throat swabbed by Dr. Coster not knowing little Joey was about to enter the world! He was to make his presence known right from the “gitgo”! And, I’ll bet in the few years I have gotten to know Joe, this wasn’t the last time he was the cause of some woman’s loud scream!!!
Joe had a great idyllic southern Maryland childhood with a great many fun stories of growing up on the water! Many days were spent crabbing and fishing and “little boy mischief” according to his daughter Bonnie Barrett, who, like her dad, has plenty of more stories if we had the room! Joe, like everyone at that time during WWII, was poor, but they were never aware of it as life was good. Fortunately, Joe grew up in a loving household where his parents were the perfect role models and taught him the important things in life were God, family and community. It did not take long for me to realize these virtues were highly instilled in this man.
Once the war was over, it wasn’t all fishing and playing and Joe started his education. He finished high school in 1958, graduating from Calvert High School which at that time was located in Prince Frederick and later became the Calvert Middle School that was recently demolished. He was voted “Cutest” in his “Senior Superlatives” given by his classmates. His graduating class had the same number of students that I had in my 10th grade Home Room! Besides his good looks, he also had a musical talent and played clarinet in a local band called “The Playboys” made up of a few of his high school buddies. Do I see a trend developing here???
For a while Joe tried his hand at selling Life Insurance among other things. But smiles and good looks didn’t always put groceries on the table, so in 1961, he decided it was time to see what this world of his looked like and he ran off and joined the United States Air Force. He spent time in Tampa, Florida as well as Barksdale AFB in Bosier City, Louisiana. He got married on active duty and was shipped out to Okinawa, Japan the day his wife was due to deliver their daughter Bonnie. She tells me he didn’t get the word for more than three weeks concerning her birth. There were no cell phones in 1965 and overseas calls were hard to complete. But he was eventually sent back home when his enlistment expired and he returned to the area and found work in construction. One of his first jobs was involved with the building of Dulles Airport and was present on the initial day when they broke ground for this massive undertaking. He later came back to Olivet where he built his home and now lives. He spent many years as a civil servant at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Like many fellow Countians, he had to take a boat to work as there was no Solomons Bridge in those early days.
I learned one of the many projects Joe became involves with was the Cruise Missile Program being tested at Pax aboard the large UC-880 aircraft. Later in my career, I ran the aircraft maintenance department responsible for the upkeep of this large airplane. It was almost the size of the Boeing 707, but made way too much exhaust on takeoff so it didn’t become a commercial success. Elvis purchased one and did a great job of renovating the interior. If you ever have a chance to visit Graceland in south Memphis, the plane is on display across the street from his home. Joe was involved with many various programs at the base, but couldn’t talk about them!
But let me tell you a little about the real Joe that I came to know in the little space I have remaining. Like his dad, he joined the Masons and has been an active member for more than 50 years. As a member, he has worked countless hour in the service of others. He has provided great support for the Shriners and the Shriner’s Hospital for Children. He is known for his friendly willingness to help whenever he finds a need, often stopping what he is doing to help a neighbor with a problem requiring a fix or a boater with a broken boat. He has been known to slip a bit of money when there was a need to help with a bill or to feed a family. Bonnie doubts her dad ever was reimbursed for the money he provided. His generosity and helpfulness is best signified by his rise to “Master of the Lodge”, a title he truly enjoyed.
Joe is adored by his close knit family of daughter Bonnie and husband David, son Bob, a Captain on active duty in service to our country, and several grandchildren. He is married to Wan, but remains on a friendly basis with Bonnie and Bob’s mother. Just about everyone I meet knows Joe! And everyone smiles at the mention of his name! Up until a couple of years ago, if you ever stopped in to purchase gasoline or an adult beverage at Ken Mar Liquors you probably ran into Joe as he was the proprietor for 23 years. Joe, I like you too my friend. Keep smiling that young boyish smile. I look forward to learning more great stories! Thank you for all you have done for so many here! You would make a great Ambassador for Calvert!
If you know of an unsung citizen of Calvert County, please contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.