It almost sounds like a detail to point out that David Dudley was a super football player, but you don’t get quotes like this from sitting on the sidelines:
“The hardest hits I’ve ever taken on the football field was in practice at Platt from Davey Dudley. When I got to the college level, I feared nothing.”
So said Tom McFadden, a lifelong friend.
Dudley died, unexpectedly, on June 26 at the age of 52. The 100 percent effort he brought to play on the gridiron pretty much characterized the way he approached all of life. It’s tragic when such people are lost so early in life, and it’s now upon others to step in to follow his well set example.
Dudley spent his career advocating for the homeless, most recently as the residential program director of Meriden’s Shelter NOW. He’d also been appointed as a board member of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.
His years of public service also included serving as the program coordinator for the New Opportunities Fatherhood Initiative, which, as one colleague put it, Dudley built “from nothing.”
“He cared,” said Bill Rybczyk, Shelter NOW director for research, development and planning. “Whether he was working with a group of fathers or the homeless, he gave care and compassion.”
Dudley had a pretty good experience of his own when it came to being a father. He and his wife, Jamie, were married for more than 27 years, having met when they were 12 years old. They have five daughters. “He had a way to make people feel he was speaking from the heart when he spoke to them,” said daughter Jordyn-Marie.
Football became a way of bonding for the family. Dudley is considered one of the best linebackers to have come out of Platt High School, which earned him an athletic scholarship at UConn.
His work for the homeless will be greatly 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,” said Rybczyk.
That may be so, but what remains is the inspiration of a life well lived and well devoted to the well-being of others. That’s a legacy that endures.