Everett Dodrill – 1926-2011

9 Mar
(One week ago today, I lost a very dear friend, who died at the age of 84. I’d known him a bit less than 25 years. His wife died 7 years ago, and since then he’d been my theater/concert/opera/dance buddy. As a reviewer I received two tickets, and since he loved the performing arts, he enjoyed going with me, and I enjoyed the company. He took me to have my cataract removed, and I happily drove him places when he was recuperating from tumbling off his bike. I’ll miss him a lot. I wrote this for his daughters, but since he was a writer, too, they said I could share it with you as well.)

When I first joined RWA in 1988, the monthly meetings were in Brecksville – a long ride from Cleveland Heights. It was suggested that I call Everett Dodrill (who lived about six blocks from me) to see about sharing the trips. I wasn’t sure my ears were working correctly. You see, RWA stands for Romance Writers of America, and Ev, was, well—a guy!

But what a guy he was! He was funny and brash and slightly sarcastic and tender and witty; curious, intelligent and marvelous at everything he tried. And he tried nearly everything at some point.

I was very impressed by his writing background: he’d been a successful free-lancer in publicity and marketing for a good many years, but had also collaborated on several books. Of course, learning  all that was like pulling teeth. Ev was very good at illuminating everything and everyone else – but not himself. I only discovered one of the books he’d co-authored, by accident while doing research for my own books.

One night at a concert by the Cleveland Orchestra, I opened my program book and there was Ev – a handsome  model in the advertisement for one of the city’s biggest banks!

Those trips to and from Brecksville were wonderful and not nearly long enough! We talked about so  many things: I learned that he and Marji had met on the stage of the Chagrin Valley Little Theater, where I’d once worked. Dumb me! I’d been around theater for a while, but I never realized Ev’s Marji was that Marji Dodrill who so lit up the city’s various stages. Or whose voice was frequently heard on commercials. That Ev filmed or produced, of course.

When in the early 90s the free-lance market sort of diminished, and he was sort of looking around for something to do, I happened to mention him to a friend who worked out at ASM International in Novelty. Ev went out for an interview and they hired him – on the spot! He made countless training and educational films for them, even as we laughed about ‘how he could make heat treating into a glamorous topic.’  Well, if anyone could do that, it would be Ev.

When I started another writing group that met in Solon, we again shared rides and talked about lots of things,  especially daughters.  Ev loved his daughters as I loved mine, but they didn’t always do the things we thought  they should do, or at least not in the way we thought they should do them.  But still, we loved and cherished our girls. And were proud of them.

Ev deprecated his acting skills, but I saw him as Mark Twain at Cain Park and will forever carry the  mental image of him in white suit with his aureole of white curls floating around him as he danced around the stage. He was a courtier in Richard III. And I couldn’t even begin to say how many times he appeared in the Marilyn Bianchi Kids  Playwriting Competition at Dobama Theater. A  good many of those very talented young writers seemed to need a Grandpop and Ev suited those roles to a T. With wit and wisdom, he treated their words with the same respect  he’d accorded to those of Shakespeare.

Ev loved to cross-country ski, especially out at Holden Arboretum, and vigorously rode his bike around the city, until a catch basin in Cleveland Heights threw him rather rudely into a gutter after first bouncing him off the curb! He loved to travel, and cherished the memories of the trip he and Marji had made to Alaska in the mid-90s, and then off they went to China!

Along about that same time, he joined me at the Cleveland Sight Center, reading newspapers over their closed-circuit radio station. Even after I gave up that activity, he stayed on for another year or two. He was a brilliant photographer, and an even more brilliant  visual artist – in paint – and ceramics. I’m very proud to own a somewhat sardonic set of Comedy and Drama—and a gargoyle-like version of Ev! That latter one makes me chuckle each time I see it – it‘s so him!

A few years ago, I needed a bit of architectural help for a book project – to calculate the floor area in a structure somewhat reduced in size from the original which had the dimensions clearly marked on it. I showed Ev my drawings, etc., and carelessly asked if he knew how to figure out the new floor sizes. Well, he’d think about it. Turned out he knew exactly where to get that help – his 15 year-old grandson Max. Thanks, guys!

In the late afternoon of last New Year’s Eve day, a good friend and I were invited to visit Ev for some tips on acting.  He was thin, yet vital as always, if a tad slowed down. But when it came to expressing emotion, he looked off into the distance, gathered his thoughts and absolutely tore into a hair-raising  version of “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning. Although he said it had been years since he’d really thought of it, the observer would rather have thought it had been only yesterday when last he’d said those words. His blue eyes blazed with white heat as he went through the famous poem. It was an acting lesson—and experience—never  to be forgotten.

As we reminisced briefly before leaving, he told us about having just recorded A Christmas Carol by  Charles Dickens, for son-in-law Mark at WJCU-FM.  On leaving, he gave me a copy of the CD. I listened to it again just last week. I’ll treasure it always.

I will miss Ev the writer, and Ev the actor, and Ev the ceramist, and Ev the clown. But most of all, I’ll miss Ev – my friend. I feel so privileged to have had him in my life.

Bon voyage, old friend.

For more about this outstanding life, here’s the official obituary. Wow!
I don’t know how long it might be there, but I’ll try to keep track of it.



3 Responses to “Everett Dodrill – 1926-2011”

  1. Jodi Kanter March 9, 2011 at 3:40 am #

    Such a nice rememberance, of your friend.
    Sorry to hear about your losing him.

  2. Cathy Jo March 9, 2011 at 3:56 am #

    Kelly, what a beautiful tribute to an obviously wonderful person. I’m sorry for your loss!

    Cathy Jo

  3. gloria hanson March 14, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    This remembrance is unique–personal yet inclusive. I did not know Ev, but I feel as if I missed someone special. He would have loved your remembrance, I’m sure.

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