It was my turn to present a biography (our theme this year) to our monthly businessman’s luncheon. I wanted to make it more alive than a book report of a dead person, so I chose to focus on a delightful living person whose life offers many examples of virtues that can enrich our lives. Here’s an outline of my presentation:
Why read or study biographies of others?
• Learn the secrets of greatness?
• See what obstacles others have overcome?
• Find models and principles to shape our lives around?
“Dode” (pronounced DOE-dee) Stroud is a musician, a violinist, who was part of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for 42 years (few have done that). Her best friend from childhood couldn’t pronounce “Gloria” and “Dode” was as close as she could come. So it stuck.
You can find individuals who have some of her character traits, but seldom do you see them together in the same person. For example:
• perseverance — all those years with the symphony were not good years. At times the symphony floundered and nearly had to close.
• tolerance — all the people were not pleasant to work with.
• gifts developed — Dode was invited to the Julliard Graduate School at age 17. Her father bought her a Guarnerius violin made in 1740 which she has played ever since.
• Attitude of service — She joined the USO at 18 1/2 and toured the South Pacific until World War II was over.
Several unusual traits about Dode
• Musicians don’t talk well, they express themselves through instruments. Dode is a gifted public speaker.
• Child prodigies often have narrow interests. Dode was cheerleader, senior year high school queen, raised two daughters and rode an ostrich in Kenya after her retirement.
• High achievers are not often relational. Dode learned how to listen, how to talk, and how to connect with others.
What path does one follow to get from a talented little girl called “Dode” in Cisco, Texas to a world-class musician that people invite to speak, pay her to play, and mind there manners when she comes.
Her father was a doctor in Cisco and owned the only hospital in town. He asked her to play her violin for the patients in their beds. She did this reluctantly but compliantly to honor her father.
Motivated by service to others
• USO travels seeking to encourage the GI’s not to be the object of their admiration.
• After retirement, performing in retirement homes in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex because she thought that was a worthwhile thing to do.
Gratitude, not pride
• Always stood strong in her relationship with God as the giver and sustainer of gifts
• Consistently believed that her spiritual life must remain preeminent.
Persevering and focused
• After retirement, she continued to use her analytical skills to learn to play bridge and then achieved masters level status.
• When her father asked her to play her violin for his hospital patients, she felt sorry for the captives who had to listen, even if they didn’t like it.
Daring and Saucy
• When Layden came by and signed her “short snorter” (name and phone number) in Okinawa, she winked at him.
• She played in a girls string quartet which was heavily guarded and escorted in the South Pacific. They liked to look nice, behave like ladies, play their very best to encourage the men. They started in Honolulu, sometimes playing ten hours a day.
• The musical group traveled to Saipan –> Guam –> Philippines –> Iwo Jima. But it was on Okinawa that she met Layden for the first time.
• Back to Julliard, interrupted by Young Artists Dealey Awards in 1946, which she won. Stayed in Dallas to enroll in SMU. Correction . . . she stayed in Dallas to marry Layden in 1949.
She found her identity in who she was and how she was gifted by God.
• A prodigy, started to play at age 5, but simply work
Even if we’re not a prodigy, even if we’re not violinists, even if we’re no performers, we can learn from these character traits that Dody exemplifies to this day. Above all, like Dode, we can find our identity in God and work hard to develop the gifts that He bestows on us. Thanks for your life, Dode, that continues to inspire and encourage so many others.