For the first time in several years, Boy Scouts headed to summer camp at Camp Robert E. Knox without “Cookie.”
Grovetown City Councilman Dale Richard Stoddard, known as Cookie to the Scouts, was found dead from natural causes in his home early Monday.
Stoddard, an Eagle Scout, spent countless hours working with the Scouts in Grovetown, including Cub Scout Pack 108, Boy Scout Troop 108 and Venturing Crew 108. He also oversaw the cooking operation at the camp for several years.
“Most people out there don’t know him as Dale, they know him as Cookie,” said Doug Thornton, a volunteer with the Scouts who worked closely with Stoddard for three years. Stoddard, 64, was instrumental in the Scouts getting chartered by the Grovetown Department of Public Safety about a year ago. He was also active in Scout events and fundraisers such as car washes and spaghetti dinners. He also helped repair and distribute bicycles to children at Christmas.
Thornton said Stoddard recently bought and donated several thousand dollars worth of kitchen equipment to the camp and trained the cooking staff of volunteers and Scouts the week before he died.
“They are taking it pretty hard,” he said. “The cook staff is taking it pretty hard especially.”
The Scouts decided to honor Stoddard by framing his apron.
Stoddard’s death leaves a vacancy on the city council, but also big shoes and an apron to fill with the Scouts.
“If we had more Dales, I don’t know what we would do,” Thornton said. “We’d be unstoppable.
“He was just such a phenomenal person. He was caring. He was loving. He was active. He was participative. He cared and he gave it his all. Words can’t begin to express the amount he put into (Scouts), the amount of care. There’s an incredibly huge void that we’re going to have with the loss of Dale Stoddard.”
Stoddard was laid to rest with a funeral service and burial at Bellevue Memorial Gardens.
After not being able to reach Stoddard, Grovetown Department of Public Safety officers broke into his Williams Street home and found him dead in his bed. Columbia County Deputy Coroner Harriett Garrison said Stoddard died from hypertensive cardiovascular disease complicated by his Type 2 diabetes.
His death was staggering for those who didn’t know the extent or severity of his medical conditions.
“It came as a shock,” said Stoddard’s younger brother, Bruce, who lives across the street. “We weren’t expecting it.”
Stoddard retired as a dispatcher from the Clearwater Police Department in Clearwater, Fla. After spending much of his childhood in Grovetown, Stoddard returned to his family home following his retirement and his mother’s death in 2004.
He served on the Grovetown City Council 2012-2013 alongside his veteran councilman brother. He had his own way of doing things and wasn’t shy about sharing his opinions.
“No, we didn’t always agree,” his brother said. “We’d stand out there in the middle of Elm Street to get the mail and talk things over, but we didn’t always agree. I’m going to miss that.”
Grovetown Mayor George James said Stoddard was always a well-prepared councilman always researching and doing homework about one city issue or another.
“He brought kind of a different outlook to the table. That’s what you want,” James said. “He’ll be missed on the council, no doubt.”
Because more than a year remains of Stoddard’s term, which runs through the end of 2015, city officials cannot appoint a replacement. A special election is required, but hasn’t yet been scheduled. City Manager Shirley Beasley said the special election will likely be added to the Nov. 4 ballot and expects to have qualifying for the position in August.
“I think we’ll be okay,” Beasley said of waiting until November to fill Stoddard seat. “We’ve got a quorum. Hopefully, everything will be okay until then.”