Iconic Baldwin City centurion the Rev. Charles Doudna, one of the founding fathers of the Maple Leaf Festival, died Sunday in Lawrence. He was 101.
Doudna was a professor of philosophy and religion at Baker University for 22 years and was inducted into its Faculty Hall of Fame. He had many skills and passions, said Roger Boyd, a longtime Baker professor, who was taught by Doudna at Baker.
“Dr. Doudna was a great man with many talents and interests,” Boyd said. “Besides getting the Maple Leaf Festival started with my dad (Ivan Boyd) and Tooley Whitley, he was very much interested in model trains and history.
“He was also a true community leader and would do anything, it seemed, to help the community compete and grow.”
The Rev. Ira DeSpain, Baker campus minister since 1992, also had Doudna as a professor.
“He found ways of being both intellectual and spiritual and saw no conflict between the two,” said DeSpain, a 1970 graduate. “With that combination, he served as an excellent role model to us all.”
Boyd, a professor of biology, studied religion under Doudna.
“I remember taking a religion course from him 40 years ago, not quite like it was yesterday, but I can certainly remember the class,” Boyd said. “It was one of my favorite classes outside of biology.”
Doudna earned his doctorate degree in theology from Yale University in 1939, the same year he married Evelyn, his wife of 68 years. She died in 2008. He was a pastor at the time in western Pennsylvania.
Five years later, he found himself as an Army chaplain in World War II and served in France after D-Day.
In 1953, the Doudnas moved to Baldwin City, where he was chairman of the philosophy and religion departments, in addition to his duties as a professor. Five years later, the Maple Leaf Festival was born.
Doudna celebrated his 100th birthday July 7, 2007 — 7/7/07 — at Vintage Park, where the Doudnas moved about six years ago after 50 years in a house he’d built. Doudna left his mark at the retirement home, too.
“He was just an incredible man that everyone here so dearly loved,” said Sue Brown, Vintage Park director. “I would say daily we learned something from Charles Doudna. I can’t even begin to describe what he was like.
“He and Evelyn will be missed here at Vintage Park,” she said. “It’s an end of an era. It’s been hard on everyone.”
Services are pending through Lamb-Roberts Funeral Home.