b. April 4, 1910, Bloom City WI
m. September 21, 1942 to
Lillian Agnes Brown, Kehoka Mo
d. July 26, 1973, Madison, WI
It is his birthday today. Had he lived, he would have been 103 years old, and probably celebrating with a lemon poppy-seed cake (and vanilla frosting). My birthday present to him is to do my first web-site bio for him. They say that genealogy research should start with the relatives closest to you, and that would be my parents.
Beyond the genealogical states above, George was the third child and second son of Leon and Vangie (Gillingham) Doudna. He was born while his father was operating a store in Bloom City. Later, the family would relocate to Hart's Hollow in Gillingham, Leon's childhood home, where George and his siblings, Eleanor, Cal, Irvin (IJ), Caroline, and Mary would all grow up.
He participated in making the farm viable, but in his heart he was an artist and had plans to go to the University in Madison. When his mother could operate the farm without him, he came to Madison and worked at the Oscar Meyer plant and later became a clerk for the Madison Post Office.
He married my mom, Billie Brown in 1942 during the war years. When I asked my mother how he proposed, she laughed and said she really didn't know. They were sitting on the porch steps of her nurse's dormitory and he was telling her about a guy he worked with who had gone to Missouri to get married because they didn't have a waiting period. They talked a while and she said when she got up, they had made plans to go to Missouri too. "I really don't know how it happened.It just did." This would be typical of my parents. They always operated in accord with one another.
My sister and I knew from an early age that if one parent said, "No" and we went to the other for a different answer, there would be consequences. The worst thing we could do to our father was to hurt our mother. The worst we could do to Mom, was to lie to Dad. "He has always said he would stand by you, no matter what the problem was, or what you did. But, don't you dare ever lie to him." Lucky for me, I was never a good enough liar to even try it. One time he caught me cheating at Solitaire which I thought was okay, since I was the only player and it saved me the time of re-shuffling. He just watched me and then told me not to cheat. "If you cheat at the little stuff and someone sees you, they'll think you'll cheat on the big stuff too."
I always thought of my father as an artist first, when people would ask me what he did. He was forever sketching on any paper available and would often have an easel set up by his big chair in the living room.
The neighbors would get involved around Christmas as he would always paint the two huge picture windows in our living room. One year it was the three wise men heading to Bethlehem, sometimes candles and stars. My personal favorite was the CocaCola Santa complete with the rosy cheeks and flowing beard. The neighbors would wait for him to start and then they would walk by and watch him painting or drive slowly by at night when the light glowed through the painting and lit up the snow in the yard.
My parents didn't have babysitters. If one was working, the other was with us until we were older. The picture of me on the home page was taken at the Truax Air Field (now the Madison Airport). We would drive to the airport and sit in the car beyond the end of the runways. Dad would sketch and my sister and I would usually read. He would stop and get us ice cream cones from the Dairy Queen on the way. We would sit there for hours waiting for a plane to take off. The sight of the planes leaving was not guaranteed since at the time it was a little airport with not much action. Often we would sit and sketch and read with no planes at all. Oh yes, we Doudnas have always been a wild bunch.
When we were old enough to start spending time away from home, he was always at hand. There were days when he would drive my sister to the Madison Library downtown and wait for her to get her books and drive her home only to find me at the door wanting to go the library also. He would yell and through his hat on the floor. Then, resolved, he would get his car keys out and drive back downtown and wait for me.
My friends in high school and college were always amazed at him. We would go to movies or whatever and stay out until all the buses had run and find ourselves with no money for a cab. I would call Dad and he would come to get me and drive all my friends home. They were amazed that he never yelled, or lectured (although on several occasions he would have had every right to), but just quietly dropped everyone off like he was being paid. They thought he was absolutely wonderful, I just took it for granted like so many things he did. Only after I had kids of my own did I realize how many gifts he had given us.
He was loved by more than the family, although in truth, I never thought of Dad as having any other life but us. After he died, the guys at the post office were wonderful. Mother received a call from one fellow worker who didn't leave his name. He started to say how sorry he was for our loss and then started to cry. "He was a hell off a good guy", the caller said. "We miss him" and hung up. Years later, I would work for the postal service and he was still remembered. Towards the end Dad probably lettered cases and made signs for the post office, more than he sorted letters. "We used to call him 'Rembrandt' because he made all the signs here. See that case over there? That's him. That was Rembrandt".
A lot of my Dad's heroes were sports figures. I remember him showing me a huge scrapbook full of newspaper clippings about sports. A large part of the book was about Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson, and that is how I learned about equal rights. I don't think I ever knew anything else until I was in school and other kids introduced me to prejudice. Which just seemed stupid to me by that time--still does.
Politically, Dad was a former Republican turned Democrat. "The Republican's never do anything for anybody else." We talked a lot of politics in our family. Even when we were little, he would listen to what we said and take it into consideration as if we were adults." When we hit the sixties and the war in Viet Nam, we had a lot of disagreements, but ended up in the same camp. I remember thinking how he didn't just hold on to opinions because they were the majority opinion or because he was stubborn, but because he had thought it all out carefully and could defend what he believed. That is a good thing for a girl to know about her father.
He adored his grand-daughters. My oldest was the only one old enough to really know him before he passed, but she was his shadow. "Gompa" would carry her around everywhere and if he didn't, she would be leaning against his leg. One of the clearest memoriesI have of my dad, was when he was in the baby section of a discount store. Sandy was about a year old and was giggling her head off, while my dignified father. pulled a plastic diaper pail up and down over his head and squeaking "Boo!".
Now that's how to love a woman.