Eulogy for Jodie Dugan

December 17, 2017

Reflection on Jodie

I guess I knew Jodie Dugan as long as I’ve known anyone. Joe and Jodie probably came to see me in the hospital when I was born, and I guess I became aware of Jodie as soon as I became aware of anyone beyond my immediate family. We all lived on Forest Avenue a few blocks away from each other, and I spent a lot of time at the Dugan’s house. I didn’t really think of Jodie as my second mother. My mother sort of worked overtime at that job, so I didn’t really need another mother. Jodie was more of an older playmate. And it was great because she could drive.

Jodie would take us places and do things that other adults weren’t so willing to go. I guess the best example of this was the time Bill and I convinced her to let us try to dribble basketballs out of the car windows as she drove down the street. We told her it was something we had seen the Harlem Globetrotters do – which was sort of true. We had seen them do it on their cartoon show, and it seemed like something we ought to be able to do. Of course it wasn’t something we could do at all. The undertaking involved a lot of stopping to retrieve errant basketballs. I think she was a little exasperated when we owned up to seeing this feat done on their cartoon show and not in real life, but she sort of enjoyed the comedy of the situation.

Jodie always had a good eye for comedy. I remember her enjoying some of the same shows we liked to watch when we were kids. Jodie could enjoy an episode of The Little Rascals as much as we did, and she was right with us in our appreciation of all the ridiculous television characters of the day: Barney, Eb, Jethro Bodine, and Gilligan. I even think she got the humor of Mad Magazine.

And Jodie never discouraged Bill and I from engaging in our favorite ridiculous childhood pastime – playing with The Britches. It’s hard to remember the scale of things from childhood, but Bill and I had acquired what seemed like giant pants that Joe had cast aside. I don’t know how large those pants really were, but they were big enough for Bill to get in one leg and me to get in the other, and we would try to move through the house in that way. Jodie didn’t discourage that kind of behavior – she enabled it.

It seems like when you’re a kid you generally try to avoid the attention of adults – they’re usually trying to get you to stop doing something you are wanting to do or to do something you don’t want to do, but it wasn’t like that with Jodie. She seemed to appreciate whatever it was we were doing – even if it involved globs of clown paint that no doubt left lots of fingerprints on walls.

Although Jodie had her limits. The only time I ever experienced her wrath was when Bill and I started taking apart a surrey they had recently acquired. The Dugans were the only people I’ve ever known to have had a surrey. I don’t know where it came from, but it was this little four-wheeled cart with a cloth top that you somehow pedaled. I don’t know why Bill and I thought it would be a good idea to take it apart, but that’s what we were attempting to do, and I can tell you, she didn’t think that was very funny. Dismantling something that was fun was a bridge too far for her.

Jodie didn’t just appreciate television comedy, Jodie had an eye for the comedy of everyday life. I had forgotten this, but in a relatively recent conversation with her she reminded me of an incident that had taken place on one of our multi-family trips to Fayetteville for a football weekend. We were actually staying out from Fayetteville at a place called the Coppermine Lodge on Beaver Lake.

I can’t remember all of the things she said went wrong that weekend, but somehow Jodie had been tagged to drive up there with the kids. Bill and Ann and Martha Jane and I were in the car with Jodie, and by the time we got to McCrory we had convinced her that we needed to stop for food. Those were the days when there was a juke box in every dairy bar, and of course we convinced her we needed some coins for the juke box. I don’t know if we picked this song on purpose or by accident, but somehow we started hearing this country song called Girl Gone Wrong. And because of the reaction we got from Jodie from the lyrics and the sound of that song we played it over and over. She remembered a number of ill-fated events of that weekend, and it was all foreshadowed by that horrible song.

I may not be remembering these stories so clearly, but she did. Jodie remembered great details of days gone by, and she cherished them deeply.

I know Jodie had her struggles. I honestly don’t know the extent of her physical and psychological ailments, but I know she had them and that she suffered terribly. I guess I was only around Jodie when she seemed to be feeling ok and ready for a laugh. I knew her to be someone who was quick to laugh and ready for something fun to happen. I knew Jodie as a fishing buddy, and as the mother who was willing to take us to the Mid-South Fair (where apparently I was known to borrow several dollars from her by using the excuse that I didn’t want to break my $5 bill – which is something she enjoyed reminding me of). Jodie was the one who would take us to buy mod clothing down on Highland Ave in Memphis and then to eat at Friday’s on Overton Square.

Jodie contributed mightily to the pleasure of childhood for me, and I’m grateful to her for that. The way our families were woven together is a very special thing to me, and it’s an honor to share a few of my thoughts and memories of a person who brought great joy and love in to my life. Jodie was one of the people who caused me to think this world is a beautiful and wondrous place, and I continue to cling to that fragile thought. This world has lost a dear soul, but it’s a brighter place because she was here.

Amen.

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One Response to “Eulogy for Jodie Dugan”

  1. Pat Ervin Says:

    That was such a good remembrance of Jodie, Thompson. Thank you for helping all of us remember the good times in our lives and others. We still have many fond memories of you also.


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