Maple Leaf founder Doudna dead at 101
Iconic Baldwin City centenarian 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, according to Roger Boyd, another longtime Baker professor, who had Doudna for a professor at Baker and whose dad, Ivan Boyd, was another of the Maple Leaf founders.
“Dr. Doudna was a great man with many talents and interests,” said Boyd. “Besides getting the Maple Leaf Festival started with my dad and Tooley Whitley, he was very much interested in model trains and history.
“He was a renaissance man in his wide spread interests and talents,” he said. “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 and marveled at his abilities.
“He was on the faculty when I was a student here,” said DeSpain, a 1970 graduate. “He has always been highly intellectual and deeply spiritual. He found ways of being both intellectual and spiritual and saw no conflict between the two.
“With that combination, he served as an excellent role model to us all,” he said.
Boyd, a professor of biology, was also taught religion by 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,” said Boyd. “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 of their marriage, in western Pennsylvania.
Five years later, he found himself as an Army Chaplain in World War II. He landed in Normandy 30 days 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.
Although that is considered his crowning achievement for the community, there were others.
“He and Phil Barnhouse were instrumental in many activities that the Santa Fe Trail Historical Society carried out in the 1960s and ‘70s,” said Boyd. He gave many of the historical bus tours during the festival for many years.
“He and Evelyn were interested in music and the arts and both were very supportive of whatever was happening in town related to the arts,” he said. “Charles sang in the church choir for many years and knew many of the composers personally.”
He celebrated his 100th birthday on 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.