Maureen Dodd was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on February 20, 1920. She was the eldest of Anne and James Connolly's four children. As a wife, mother, and teacher, she made many choices. Like us all, her decisions ranged from joyful to heart wrenching. The choices Maureen made defined her life and her legacy.
Green or Orange, Catholic or Protestant, Native or Immigrant, To Stay or To Go, Mother or Teacher, Family or Students, Church or State, Self or Community were the defining structures of her life.
Green or Orange, Catholic or Protestant:
Ireland, the terrible beauty. A terror that divided an island by religion and wealth. A beauty that displayed itself in the grandeur of the landscape and expressed itself in the form of poetry, music and the arts of her citizens. "The Troubles" as they were known became the source of ugly conflicts that defined a society. Employment, home, church, in fact, no area of social life was unscathed by the constant Orange-Green division. How would a young girl evolve enduring these conditions? These were the circumstances under which Maureen lived her childhood. The temptation to "hate" would be easy to accept. To judge based on religion, simple. To judge based on the content of one's character, this requires intelligence. In Maureen, the seeds of discord found no fertile ground. With a loving heart and a sound mind, she flourished in both cultures, truly an epic achievement.
Native or Immigrant, To Stay or To Go:
Maureen completed her formal music training at Cross and Passion College in Northern Ireland. For several years following college, she augmented her skills with professional singing lessons from a private tutor. A natural progression took place from student to performer. The pinnacle being live performances on BBC Radio in Ireland.
It was at such a performance that Irish luck shone on one of its native sons. A lad by the name of Frank met a lass named Maureen. On September 16, 1947 Francis P. Dodd wed Maureen Josephine Connolly. Their first three children; Fiona, Cathal and Barry were born in Ireland.
In early January 1952 the promise of a new job for Frank meant a new start for the whole family. The Dodds emigrated to Canada. It was either destiny or fate that brought the Dodds to a small fishing village on the north shore of Lake Erie? Port Dover. Two more sons were to follow, Rory and Sean. The native had become an immigrant and then native again. From these humble beginnings, Maureen began a musical legacy which will endure long after her passing. Mother or Teacher, Family or Students. Given a choice between her two top priorities? Family and music, Maureen chose both. She was able to do this nicely by dovetailing the need to help support her family with her passion to practice her craft. Initially her teaching was in the form of piano and voice lessons to students in Port Dover. To supplement family resources, Frank and Maureen performed as wedding soloists. In this capacity they were skillful and became highly demanded across the countryside.
In the summer of 1960 Maureen began to formalize her career by acquiring an Elementary Teachers Certificate. She began her school teaching career with the Haldimand/Norfolk Separate School Board in the fall of 1960, teaching at Waterford, Delhi and Walsh. Several years later she transferred to the Norfolk Board of Education where she taught at Port Dover Public and by 1970 her teaching assignment was expanded to include Doverwood Public School. She remained in this duel role until her retirement in 1980.
Although her school instruction was delivered with flare and drama, Maureen's most ardent tutelage was received by her own children. As youths, Fiona, Cal, Barry and Rory made several television appearances. They performed both locally and at provincial festivals. The boys were classic Irish tenors. In time two of Maureen's sons were inspired to pursue careers in the music field. Cal and Rory were both very successful in this pursuit. Vocal recordings, television performances and live productions on Broadway and the Grammy's filled out their resumes. What of Fiona? Oh Fiona, she had a voice so sweet, song birds in the trees would cringe with envy. Truly her mother's daughter.
Church or State:
Given the choice between Church and State, again, Maureen chose both. As a staunch Roman Catholic, she attended and served Port Dover's St. Cecilia's parish her entire life. Leading choirs, arranging music, training cantors and soloists, all were in her realm of expertise. To the province of Ontario she bestowed twenty years of the highest quality and most inspirational music instruction possible. Mrs. Dodd's choirs were the standard by which others were measured. These choirs competed and won many Kiwanis Festival competitions in Toronto and surrounding areas.
Self or Community:
Given this choice, Maureen Dodd did not choose both. She chose to lend her abilities to her community alone. To exploit one's own talents for profit or notoriety, is a simplistic act. To use those same talents to enhance the larger community is an act of thoughtful inspiration. What higher compliment can you bestow upon a teacher than to say "You inspired me!" Many students were inspired, some making music and the arts their profession.
The crowning achievement for Maureen though, was the student who acquired a love for music, the student who continues to practise their own craft for the simple pleasure it provides.
In walking this selfless path of community over personal recognition and achievement, Maureen has gained perpetual remembrance from the students who were influenced by her.
Maureen was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in June of 1996. On November 16, 1998, at Allendale Nursing Home in Milton, Ontario, she died. Maureen was buried from St. Cecilia's Parish in Port Dover. Her wake was traditional Irish.
Maureen was predeceased by her husband Frank and her brother John. She is survived by a brother Seamus of Wisconsin and a sister Dolores of the Isle of Man. Her five children and their extended families continue to thrive in Southern Ontario and parts of the United States.
Maureen Dodd was a product of the cauldron of adversity that was and still is, Northern Ireland. She was blessed with a musical ability. Her voice became an instrument of conciliation. In a time when divisions still existed, she became a bridge maker between communities. By her own passionate example, her students were motivated to strive for excellence in music and in life.
The choices we make in life are easily judged in hindsight. In hindsight, Maureen chose well. Devoted mother and teacher, a patriot to the nation of her birth and her adopted nation, a servant to her church and her community, this was Maureen Dodd's life.
Her legacy has been left to us, to guard, nurture and perpetuate.
If people who attended elementary schools in the Port Dover area during the 1960s and 1970s have an unusual love of music, much of that can be attributed to their former music teacher, Maureen Josephine Dodd.
In remembrance of this legacy, a group of area residents has founded the Maureen Dodd Elementary Arts Foundation to insure and enhance the arts programs within the elementary schools of Port Dover. The Foundation offers the student the good fortune to nurture their artistic and practical skills, through until the end of their high school career. This opportunity allows for the development of alternative goals that the student may strive toward, in the evolution of their own destiny. The Maureen Dodd Elementary Arts Foundation has established a symbiotic relationship with the Lighthouse Festival Theatre and the Port Composite School Theatre Arts Program. This association lends focus to the Foundation and offers incentive and objectives for students to reach, all within the community of Port Dover and onward into their future.
The Maureen Dodd Elementary Arts Foundation was created to insure and enhance the arts programs within the elementary schools of Port Dover. The Foundation will provide students the opportunity to develop practical skills including, poise, discipline, memory, language, music and creative art techniques above and beyond what is being offered in the elementary school systems.