The Rev. Robert John Dodwell
The Rev. Robert John Dodwell, DD was born in Houston, Texas on Aug. 17,1934. He was the first child of Basil and Ella Dodwell who moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1939 to raise their family (Bob, Steve, and Gloria). Bob attended public schools in Baton Rouge and received his Bachelors degree in History from Louisiana State University in 1955. While at LSU, Bob served as the Manager of Mike the Tiger and took great delight in his responsibilities of caring for Mike and showing him off at football games.
Having indicated since age 5 that he wanted to be an Episcopal priest, after graduating from LSU, he immediately went to Seabury-Western Seminar where he received a Masters degree in Theology in 1958. He was ordained as deacon in June in 1958 and a priest in May of 1959 while he was Junior Curate at St. James in Alexandria. He went to The Church of the Good Shepard in Lake Charles where he was Senior Curate and Head Master of the Episcopal Day School. In 1965 he became vicar of St. Alban’s Monroe and St. Patrick’s West Monroe. Then in 1970 he moved to St. Anna’s New Orleans as Rector where he served until his retirement in 1994. Bob received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Seabury-Western Seminary in 1995.
Bob was involved thru out his ministry in leadership activities for the Diocese of Louisiana and eventually the National Church and the local communities where he lived. His service to the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana began as Director of Youth, then Diocesan Training Director and then coordinator of MRI with multiple mission trips to Mexico. He was assistant secretary then secretary of the Diocese and served on the Executive Board of the diocese for twenty-two years. He was on the Standing Committee for six years and was president for three of those years. His work with the Louisiana Episcopal Clergy Association led to his election as president of the organization for three years.
His leadership at the diocesan level resulted in work with the National Network of Episcopal Clergy Association (NNECA) of which he was national president from 1982 to 1986. His national church leadership was also evidenced by his service as a Trustee for Seabury-Western Seminary for twenty years while serving on the Executive Committee from 1983 to 1998. He was elected a Trustee to the National Church Pension Fund in 1991.
As Rector of St. Anna’s, Bob and Mary lead the church to extraordinary growth and service to the community. His St. Anna’s family was the focus of his day to day ministry in God’s service. His brothers and sisters in Christ at St. Anna’s were his family and he lead them as a devoted father and parish priest. When Bob married Mary Kathryn King Dodwell on August 25,1973, his ministry became their ministry. Her love and devotion to Bob and St. Anna’s was evidenced in their daily lives by the love and joy they brought to the many lives they touched. While rector of St. Anna’s, Bob and Mary served the broader New Orleans community through his work on the Board of Directors of Meals on Wheels, the Mayor’s Task Force on the French Quarter and the Task Force on Mardi Gras. He also served on the Federation of Churches of which he was chair for two years. He was on the Executive Board of the Louisiana Historical Society and Chaplain to the Anglican Seaman for the Port of New Orleans.
Bob died of a heart attack on All Saints Day, November 1, 1998 at the age of 64. He lived a life of love and laughter; a life of purpose in the service of God and His peoples. His love of life and family is still celebrated every year when Mary hosts a gathering of their family and friends to remember Bob, his loving ways, and the anniversary of his entrance into God’s life eternal. We tell stories and laugh with good food and Mary’s warm hospitality. As the Dodwell family gathers each July 4 weekend at Road’s End at Big Lake we remember Bob’s love of life and family. His joys on the jet ski, his happiness with his faithful Irish Setters, and his shear happiness at hosting family and friends for one of Mary’s many fine meals.
Bob was bigger than life, he was a character who was a hero to so many people along life’s pathway. His loyalty, his love of Mary and family, his generosity, his sense of humor, his love of life, his courage, and his vision endeared Bob to so many with whom he walked this fragile earth.
He was a beloved husband, son, brother, uncle, God father, mentor, friend, and colleague who is resting in peace with our Lord. Thanks be to God.
Mary Kathryn King Dodwell
Mary was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana on June 20, 1938 to Albion and Violet King. She was raised in Lake Charles. Her Father died when she was eight years old leaving her mother to raise Mary, her sister and two brothers. She attended public schools in LC and earned a BA in Education (math and PE) and a Masters in Counseling and Guidance from McNeese State University.
Her professional life included work with Camp Fire for Girls organization in Lake Charles and later in New Orleans. She also worked with children and families in Thibodeux with the Louisiana Child Welfare System then taught Math in the public schools of NOLA before returning to Lake Charles to complete her Masters at McNeese. She then return to NOLA and worked with the Camp Fire Management Team.
All during college and later in her professional career, Mary was actively serving God as a sponsor for high school youth groups and the Canterbury Club for college students at churches in Lake Charles and New Orleans. Her summers were spent at Camp Hardtner (Episcopal Camp and Conference Center for the Diocese of Louisiana as waterfront director and later as head counselor. She continued her important leadership for Camp Hardtner by serving on the diocesan Summer Camping Committee as co-chair and then chair and as chair of the Training Committee for the camp. She organized and lead diocesan youth weekend events and summer mission trips with high school students to Mexico to teach vacation bible schools for Hispanic children.
At St. Anna’s she was High School Youth Director from 1971 to 1979 and she also served on the board of the Diocesan Episcopal Church Women (ECW) to coordinate the youth activities with the diocesan ECW. She has been an integral part of the camp and conference program, Christian education and youth ministries in two dioceses.
Mary and Bob (The Rev. Robert John Dodwell) married on Aug.25, 1973 at a glorious Eucharistic celebration at the Church of the Good Shepard in Lake Charles. The wonderful reception was at her brother, CA King’s, antebellum home. She and Bob began their ministry together for St. Anna’s, the Diocese of Louisiana, and the National Church.
Mary’s devotion and love for Bob and his ministries, her patience, her intellect, and her generosity created a new direction for her work in God’s service. She focused on family, her family, Bob’s family, and the St. Anna’s family. As she and Bob became more active at the diocesan level her definition of family expanded to the clergy and their spouses/families in Louisiana. Then her family expanded to the national level as Bob became more involved as a Trustee of Seabury-Western Seminary, as a board member and then president of the National Network of Episcopal Clergy Association (NNECA) and as a Trustee on the National Church Pension Fund. Ever by his side as a confident, an advisor, and a loving spouse they were an awesome team; hosting their family and colleagues at their wonderful antebellum home in New Orleans with fabulous meals and warm hospitality. Mary was honored by the Western Diocese of Louisiana in 1996 with the Distinguished Servant Ministry Award for outstanding leadership to the youth of Louisiana at Camp Hardtner spanning three decades.
The meals from Chef Mary became so sought after that she has self-published five cookbooks of family and friends’ favorites. Her culinary talents encouraged the formation of the Anna Chef’s, an organization that exist today and keeps the kitchens and cooks at St. Anna’s offering their love and food for so many parishioners, neighbors, and those that were hungry.
Mary’s love of her immediate family has created a wonderful network of nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews and now great-great nieces. She is the glue that binds so many of us together with her open arms of love and hospitality at her wonderful Washington Street home in New Orleans and the amazing Road’s End at Big Lake outside of Lake Charles.
After Bob’s entranced into eternal life with our Lord in 1998, Mary continues to live in New Orleans and in Lake Charles and is an active member of our beloved St. Anna’s. Her tireless work with retired clergy and their spouses is an indication of her continued service to God and family, her immediate family and the church family.