MERIDEN — A career advocate for the homeless, David Dudley is being remembered by former colleagues and family for his many contributions to underserved community members and as a caring father and husband.
Dudley died unexpectedly on June 26 at the age of 52.
Most recently, Dudley served the city’s homeless as the residential program director of Meriden’s Shelter NOW. He was also appointed as a board member of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.
In a previous position, Dudley was the program coordinator for the New Opportunities Fatherhood Initiative in his 13 years in public service.
Meriden’s Shelter NOW Director for Research, Development & Planning Bill Rybczyk worked with Dudley for 10 years.
“He built the Fatherhood Initiative from nothing,” Rybczyk said. “Then he moved to the Waterbury office and worked there for a number of years. Then he took over the Meriden shelter in 2016.”
“Dave was a caring and compassionate person,” he added. “Everything he did, he gave beyond 100 percent. He was very detail oriented. He cared. Whether he was working with a group of fathers or the homeless, he gave care and compassion. He was a great advocate for the needs of fathers and the homeless. He spoke on their behalf with their goals in mind. Those were some of the hallmarks of his work.”
Dudley was born in Meriden in 1968 and he knew something about fatherhood himself. He and his wife Jamie have five daughters: Jordyn-Marie, Alexa, Hayley, and Olivia Dudley, and Kelly Dormandy. He left behind a sister, Sandra and brothers Michael and Marvin. He was predeceased by his brother George.
Jamie and David Dudley met when they were 12 years old. They’ve been married for more than 27 years.
“He’s been a part of my life most of my life,” Jamie Dudley said. “We have very hardworking, strong girls and I’m so proud of them and I know he is proud of them.”
Jordyn-Marie, Haley and Jamie said, in a combined statement on a phone interview on Friday afternoon, that they loved the way David spoke to people.
“He had a way to make people feel he was speaking from the heart when he spoke to them,” Jordyn-Marie said.
“He was genuine as a person and compassionate,” Haley said. “He loved everyone in his life and he was the type of person we all looked up to and strived to be.”
The Dudleys bonded over football. They all cheered on the Alabama Crimson Tide football team. Dudley’s mother is orginally from Alabama. David and Jamie flew to Texas to see an Alabama-Texas A&M football game last season.
Platt Hall of Fame
Dudley wasn’t so bad on the gridiron himself. He was among the best football players Platt High School has produced. The 1986 grad was a standout basketball and football player. But it was on the football field where he really excelled as a linebacker. He was a two-year captain and was named the MVP of the 1985 Stoddard Bowl and an all-state defensive player. Jamie was a cheerleader in Meriden in those days. His success earned him an athletic scholarship at UConn, where he served as a starting linebacker. He was named to the 1988 pre-season All-American team.
“Great player,” said Tom Ryan, Dudley’s football coach at Platt. “He went on a full scholarship to UConn and started his freshman year. It wasn’t just his size and agility that separated him from the pack. He was the most intelligent player I’ve ever coached.”
Dudley was a Platt Athletic Hall of Fame inductee in 2002.
“David was a super-athlete at Platt,” Platt AD Rich Katz said. “He was captain for the football and basketball teams.”
Todd McFadden was a lifelong friend of Dudley’s and a fellow standout at Platt Athletics Hall of Famer.
“I’ve known him since we were kids,” McFadden said. “We were family. His uncle married my aunt. We were about the same age and he’s someone I always thought of as a big brother. We grew up together in the projects. All of the kids looked up to Davey. He was the baby of four other siblings including three older brothers. Toughness was instilled in Davey. We followed him. If Davey was doing it, we wanted to do it.”
McFadden said the last time they spoke, Dudley was talking a lot about work.
“I know they are going to miss him dearly,” McFadden said. “He told me he was working a lot of hours at the shelter. When he sets his mind to something, he loses sleep until he gets it done. I can’t believe he’s gone. He was a gentle giant. Everyone in Meriden knew of him and knew of him. He was a family man. He took care of his family.”
McFadden, a standout running back at Platt, went on to play college ball at American International College in Springfield.
“The hardest hits I’ve ever taken on the football field was in practice at Platt from Davey Dudley,” McFadden said. “When I got to the college level, I feared nothing. He’s one of the best linebackers to come out of Meriden. He was fearless and we followed suit because Davey was the guy.”
Dudley’s cousin Willie Jr. played at Maloney against Dudley for four years.
“He was a great family guy,” Willie Dudley Jr. said. “We grew up playing football together at seven. I went to Maloney and he went to Platt. We had a great time hanging out together. We always had a great time reminiscing. I’m going to miss that about him. He didn’t have a bad bone in his body. He would do anything for anybody.”
“His legacy will live on for a long time,” Dudley Jr. said. “He was dedicated to what he did. He took his job very seriously at the shelter. He tried to set everyone on the right path. His legacy will never be forgotten. He touched a lot of lives...He was very passionate. If he was doing something that could benefit someone else, he would work at it. He was a humble guy and wanted to make sure people were getting taken care of.”
Rybczyk estimated that Dudley touched and changed many lives through his work.
“You talk about the multiplier effect with the fatherhood program with dads and kids and all of the homeless individuals — you are talking thousands,” Rybczyk said. “Dave always showed empathy for people in his work and there was an authenticity to him when he was engaging with anyone.”
Rybczyk said Dudley was a builder and a creator.
“He always had a vision and a foresight to see where things could be improved and that bore out in his work,” Rybczyk said. “He built the fatherhood program in Meriden and he transformed the emergency shelter in the last four years. He approached it with clarity and vision. People around him believed in him. That’s a rare quality. He’s going to be missed. We are in the middle of a major renovation at the emergency shelter that was his vision and led by him and he’s not going to see it completed. That’s going to be tough when that’s finalized without Dave seeing it.”
Services were held on Thursday at John J. Ferry & Sons Funeral Home. A private service will be held at a later date.
David Dudley’s greatest accomplishment was the success of his girls. In lieu of flowers, the family is accepting donations in David’s honor to support Alexa (George Washington), Hayley (Seton Hall), and Olivia Dudley's (New York University) college expenses.
Checks can be addressed to The Dudley Education Fund and sent to 744 Johnson Ave. Meriden, CT 06451, or online payments can be made through your bank app using Zelle or Zellepay.com (search DudleyEduFund@gmail.com as the recipient) and to The Dudley Education Fund PayPal at PayPal.me/DudleyEdu