A Tribute to a Very Close Friend

The Rev. Bernard R. Dodd passed away June 20th 2012, one day after being seriously injured in a single vehicle accident not far from his home in Crossgar, County Down, Ulster, UK.  He was 84 years of age.

Tribute to Bernard Dodd – a very special friend

In 1953 I was serving in the Royal Air Force at RAF Turnhouse, Edinburgh.  One evening a fellow Christian airman told me that he had heard that another Christian, a corporal named Bernard Dodd had been transferred to Turnhouse from RAF Dyce, Aberdeen.  He was an electrician and I went to the living quarters where the electricians were housed and found Bernard, still in the process of unpacking.  Little did I realize at that moment that I had just met a man and fellow believer who would become the closest of friends and a profound, godly influence in my life.  As I look back 59 years later at the end of Bernard’s earthly journey I can say that, with the exception of course of my beloved wife Grace, I regard Bernard as my best friend and, although the separation of a great distance since our move to Canada has severely limited personal contact, I deeply grieve and feel the pain of losing him.

Bernard, as he was when I first met him in late 1953

Bernard and Martin on the shore of the Firth of Forth at South Queensferry, not far from Turnhouse (1954)

He quickly became a much loved member of the Christian fellowship group at Turnhouse.  He had been led to the Lord, while in the RAF, by a remarkable Christian named Dennis Paterson, a flight engineer who had flown as a crew member on heavy transport aircraft during the Berlin airlift.  Dennis’s zeal for the Lord and infectious personal evangelism not only won Bernard for Christ but inspired him to live in full commitment to Him.  Bernard was already well versed in the scriptures and a valuable asset in the informal Bible studies of our group.  We were all very positively influenced by a Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Scripture Readers Association (SASRA) worker named Harry Stickings.  Harry would organize witness teams to go with him to churches where he was booked to conduct services.  Bernard was always a ready participant.

 

Some of the Turnhouse, Edinburgh Christians. Bernard is first left and Harry Stickings second from the right in the front row.

Bernard was also ready at any time for an adventure.  One day when both he and I were off duty he came to my quarters and told me that he had heard there was a Communications Flight aircraft that was going to fly south to a base in Cheshire, which was Bernard’s home county.   He wondered whether I thought we might be able to ride on it and visit his folks.  As I worked in Air Traffic Control I had ready access to the Control Tower and hurried over there to find out what I could.  The pilot was actually in the tower at the time finalizing details with the duty controller and, pointing to a twin engined Avro Anson that was parked on the apron in front of the tower, told me that we would be welcome to go along with him in the Anson.  We flew down to RAF Harwarden, near Chester and from there made our way to Churton where we turned up as surprise visitors on his parent’s doorstep.  We only had a few hours to spend there as we were both working the next day.  There was no flight back and we travelled back to Scotland overnight by train and showed up for duty in the morning as usual.

Bernard had a great love and burden for Churton, the charming Cheshire village where he grew up.  In 1954 the Greater London Billy Graham Crusade took place in Harringay Arena in London.  It was a life changing experience for us and we were deeply affected by the Crusade.  Bernard felt that the Lord was burdening him to organize a series of evangelistic meetings in Churton.  He put together a remarkable plan for what was called “The Churton New Life Campaign.”  A number of us from Turnhouse became members of the team, Dennis Paterson came to share the preaching with Bernard, the local Salvation Army came with their singers and a wonderful week of outreach and meetings took place in the local Methodist Church.  Alun Davies, a Welshman with a beautiful tenor voice who was also a member of the Turnhouse group sang nightly.  A number of people came to Christ during that week.

Churton Campaign Poster

Churton Campaign evangelistic team. L to R: Bernard Dodd, George Greenhough, T. Alun Davies, A. Haydn Gibson, Brian Baker, Ralph Young – I was behind the camera.

Bernard speaking to children from the back of a station wagon at the Churton Campaign

On his release from the RAF Bernard became a student at the London Bible College.  He was influential in my doing the same when my term in the Air Force was completed in 1956.  Dennis Paterson founded the Come Back to God Campaign with which both Bernard and I served as staff ministers along with Eric Westwood for sometime until our paths of service for the Lord took us in different directions.  Bernard served in pastorates and with organizations that worked with military personnel, including SASRA.

The day Bernard went for his interview at SASRA

In 1958 Grace, my fiancée and I were married.  There was no question in my mind who I wanted to be my best man and Bernard graciously accepted my request.  For Bernard, the Lord had a very special gift in store as far as a wife was concerned.  Sadie was wonderfully perfect for him and Grace’s and my love and admiration for her have no limit.  He could not have had a more loving, faithful, supportive and enabling helpmeet than she as he pursued the calling the Lord had put on his life.

Bernard and some of the friends who came to Grace’s and my engagement party on December 16th 1957. Next to Bernie is my sister-in-law Doris

Bernard, the best man, making a final adjustment to ensure the groom is in good order for the wedding service.

A group photo taken at Grace’s and my wedding – July 26th 1958. Bernard is at the far left with his hands on the shoulders of my niece Wendy. Dennis Paterson conducted our wedding and is on the far left of the third row, wearing a clerical collar.

The Lord blessed Bernard and me (although some might not consider it a blessing) with a similar sense of humour.  I know that Grace, and probably Sadie too, would get very amused when Bernie and I would become helpless with laughter about some situation, or imaginary situation that we thought was funny.

He was an evangelist, a pastor and a personal worker with members of the armed forces.  He was meticulous in all that he did and served the Lord to the very end, officiating at a wedding on the day before the accident that resulted in his going home to be with the Lord.

The Lord moved Grace and me to British Columbia, Canada for new ministry here at the beginning of 1975.  On every trip back to the UK since then it has always been a priority for us to arrange some time to spend with Bernie and Sadie.  We are so grateful that we were able to stay a few days with them in 2005 at their home in Killyleagh, Co. Down, Ulster.

Bernie and Sadie in 1988

Martin, Bernard and Alun Davies in 1998

Bernie, Sadie and Grace at Killyleagh, Ulster in 2005

Psalm 37:23 states, The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.  Any examination of the life and ministry of Bernard will show that, in Christ, he was a good man whose steps were ordered by the Lord.  We also know that the Lord was, and is delighted with him.  Although he was taken suddenly, there is great comfort knowing that Bernard, my dearest friend, is with the Lord he loved and served.  He has already been awarded the crown of righteousness reserved for him by the Lord he faithfully served.

Bye for now my beloved friend.  I’ll see you later – it will be a great reunion.

Martin J. Gouldthorpe

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About mgouldth

Retired pastor and schoolteacher.
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2 Responses to A Tribute to a Very Close Friend

  1. Ian Kay says:

    I knew Bernard and Sadie when they were at Zion Baptist church in Rochdale in the 60s and where I became a Christian – he baptised me aged 17. I remember a gracious man but very serious, no quitet as you describe him! Over the next 53 years I became an Anglican, was ordained and after 24 years in the ministry became a Roman catholic – something I’m sure Bernard would not have approved of. But in all these years I’ve never forgotten the good days at Zion under his ministry where I certainly got to know the Bible,
    Yours in Christ,
    Ian

  2. rivqah says:

    Dear Martin – what a terrible shock to lose a dear friend so suddenly and without warning, notwithstanding that he is now in Glory. I love the old photos and may the memories be precious. Lesley

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