John Dodig: He Does “I Do”

The other day, a Facebook post caught John Dodig’s eye.

A couple was getting married. But because they’re gay, one set of parents refused to attend. So a friend of one of the men stepped in, and took the place of the father.

The two acts — of ignorance and understanding — hit home.

John Dodig

“I understand growing up with the burden of trying to hide who you are,” says Dodig, the popular and highly respected principal of Staples High School who retired in 2015.

“I was terrified too. And one of the worst fears about coming out was losing my parents.”

Dodig did not say the words “I am gay” out loud until he was 46 years old. That day — in front of a mirror — he repeated them several times, just to be sure.

Two years later, he met Rodger. Dodig was principal of Fairfield High School, so they would not be seen together. If someone said “Hey, Mr. Dodig!” when they strolled down Main Street in Westport, Rodger was “trained” to walk away.

By the time he was 60, Dodig was no longer terrified. He was the principal of Staples High School, out publicly and on a mission to make his building a safe place for every student and staff member, no matter who they were.

In June of 2013, Dodig and Rodger were married at the Saugatuck Rowing Club. The joyful ceremony included Dodig’s ex-wife, her current husband, their daughter and her fiance, and Dodig’s daughter, her husband and their children.

Rodger’s mother and his 3 brothers were there too.

“It doesn’t get better than that,” the former principal says.

So when he read that Facebook post about the gay couple, and the friend who stood in for the parents at their wedding, he had 2 thoughts: “The good news is, people are coming out and getting married when they’re young. The bad news is, there’s still a chance they’ll lose their parents.”

Dodig — who is as active in retirement as he was during his 47 years as an educator — decided he could help.

He’s offering to stand in — as a parent, grandparent or friend — for any gay man or woman whose loved one refuses to attend a wedding.

“I’ll go to any ceremony where 2 people commit to love each other forever,” Dodig says.

“The thought that someone finally comes to terms with who they are, and wants to get married, but someone else refuses to be there for them — that’s heartbreaking.”

He posted his offer on Facebook. Almost immediately, a female friend offered to accompany him, so there can be both a “mother” and “father” at a wedding.

“I may never get called,” Dodig says. “But I’m ready to help.”

He invites “06880” readers to spread his offer far and wide. Just email

He’ll even walk you down the aisle.

11 responses to “John Dodig: He Does “I Do”

  1. What a beautiful article and such an incredible and standup man! You are amazing Mr Dodig!

  2. Theresa Bairaktaris

    This was such a beautiful story to read as I wake up in the morning. Everyone deserves love 💗 I love you John for the man you are and for the respect you gave as our Principal of Staples High School. I for one, know my Triplets graduated under your Tenure and are better men today because of your values and the way my boys were treated by you. I am your second mom, need be. Thank you for writing such kind words & sharing your story. It most definitely will help some men or women struggling with their own life. We are here 💙

  3. Beautiful, but so sad about the parents who refused to attend their son’s wedding.

  4. How lovely-In our house we always said … WWDD (what would Dodig do) still rings true!

  5. Stephanie Bass

    What a superstar.

    And an incredible example to all our kids who went through Staples when he was in charge. I am a lucky parent.

  6. Bonnie Scott Connolly

    What a fine human being.

  7. Our entire family LOVES John Dodig!!!!

  8. Dan-this one hit home.

    My nephew is gay and Jeff and Jeff were married a few months back. The wedding was a weekend party in florida that concluded with their wedding on sunday. Till Jeff due us part-we all flew down. My daughters from college to celebrate. I spoke Friday night at the opening gathering of their love and upcoming marriage. Friends joined close family members for the event.

    Unfortunately the ‘other’ Jeff’s parents did not approve. Did not approve at all. Jeff is Asian and his mother flew to China the day of the wedding-Sunday. Only 2 cousins, young woman, were willing to be there for the Sunday ceremony. Jeff and Jeff were surrounded by love but Jeff without his family. Dan-it was heartbreaking while we all celebrated together.

    Jeff knew we were there for him. He was very happy. He spoke at the wedding about my nephew. Amazing. We were all there for them and I know it meant everything to him.

    John Dodig-this is real and really wonderful to read. Thank you for willing to be there. Nobody should be abandoned by their family. Never.

  9. Sharon Paulsen

    Wow, I am moved, and it’s pulling at my heart-strings.

    Love … it’s all that matters.

    Hear hear for progressive humanity, exhibited by a former Staples High principle!

    Damn, I love my home town!

    And let’s also try to “forgive” those who are not ready or even capable of embracing this paradigm shift (which isn’t really a new shift at all, but rather something that has been historically repressed in recent human history, but always present, nonetheless).

    Cheers for sharing this, Dan!!

  10. Katherine Bruan

    They don’t get better than Mr. John Dodig. We were lucky at Staples to have him. Huge heart.

  11. Kathie Bennewitz

    He is such a good honest person and role model! And we are so fortunate that he is and also that he makes Westport home!