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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
He’ll even walk you down the aisle.