When Daniel Gautschi, of Sequim, read that his old friend died acting as a human shield to protect his wife from erratic gunshots in Tucson, Ariz., he wasn’t surprised.
That’s just the kind of man Dorwan Stoddard was, Gautschi said.
“He was always looking out for the other guy.”
The 76-year-old, who spent about a decade in Sequim, was attending an event hosted by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in front of a Safeway grocery store with his wife, Mavanell “Mavy,” when a gunman opened fire.
Dorwan Stoddard covered his wife on the ground to protect her from the barrage of bullets. He was shot three times and it was a shot in the head that ended his life, sister-in-law Sandy Stoddard, of Sequim, said. Mavy Stoddard was shot three times in the leg, she said.
Six people, including Dorwan Stoddard, died and more than a dozen were wounded. Authorities say 22-year-old Jared Loughner was the gunman. Political motivations, as well as mental instability, are suspected.
Daughter-in-law Terry Stoddard said they had expected a phone call about Dorwan Stoddard’s passing for a year. After all, he had 16 or 17 stents in his heart and it was likely to go at any time.
But it was a sheriff’s deputy who left an emergency note on their door while they were out watching a Superbowl playoff game on TV who brought the news. Her husband, Ron Stoddard, dialed the number the deputy left on the note.
“My husband got off the phone and he looked at me and said, ‘My dad died a hero,’” she said, her voice breaking. “And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ and he told me what happened and said, ‘He pushed Mavy down and took the bullets and he’s gone.’”
‘Together for a reason’
Childhood sweethearts who reunited after losing their longterm marriage partners, Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard led a happy life, Sandy Stoddard said.
“They were put together for a reason,” she said.
The couple married in their 60s and spent their time fishing and traveling extensively across the U.S., Canada and Europe.
They would have been married 16 years this Valentine’s Day, daughter-in-law Terry Stoddard said.
Active in church and civic life, it wasn’t surprising they went to Gifford’s meeting with constituents, said Sandy Stoddard, who happened to be vacationing in Tucson at the time of the shooting.
“Mavy told me their life together was put together so well,” Sandy Stoddard said. “They just enjoyed each other and she knew when he laid his body on her that he was giving his life for hers.”
Sandy Stoddard said Mavy is expected to be released from the hospital this week.
Terry Stoddard said family members have mixed feelings about the shooting and Dorwan Stoddard’s death.
“His passing has left a huge void in our lives that will never be filled again, never,” she said, calling the shooting a “senseless, stupid act.”
She is angry there was no security at the political meeting, especially when the congresswoman had received threats in the past.
She is angry Loughner’s friends didn’t call the police after he posted a goodbye note on his Myspace page alluding to what would happen in front of the grocery store.
She is angry people died from needless violence that has no place in her country.
“Nobody’s time (to die) should be like that … fighting for your life and your wife’s life,” she said. “That is something happens in war zones, not outside a grocery store in the United States of America.”
But, at the same time, she knows Dorwan Stoddard didn’t want to die an invalid. She knows how much he loved his wife, Mavy. And she knows he had a few moments before his passing to lie in her arms one more time and know that she was OK.
“He wouldn’t have had it any other way,” she said. “He would rather that she lived.”
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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