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Danville Hall of Pride Archives

2014 Hall of Pride Recipient
(Photo courtesy of Studio K)

Wendell Williams

There were two things Wendell Williams wanted to do when he graduated from Danville High School in 1941: to marry his high school sweetheart, Ruth Wagner, and to farm. Little did he know that he would accomplish both those goals and many more.

As the 2014 inductee into the Danville Hall of Pride, Wendell and his wife, Ruth, are quite possibly some of the oldest living graduates of DHS. Wendell’s father, Corliss Williams, and his mother, Nettie Elliott, were in the very first graduating class of Danville High School and began a long legacy of Williams to walk the halls of DHS.

Wendell did marry Ruth after graduating from high school and began his career as a farmer west of Danville. However, following the death of his brother, Russell, in World War II, Wendell volunteered for the U.S. Army and after basic training was deployed to Europe as part of the 91st Infantry Division fighting in Northern Italy. He fought in two major battles, serving over a year in the heart of the battleground and was boarding a ship in Italy to return to the U.S. when the first atomic bomb struck Japan. He was honorably discharged in November 1945 and returned to his first career of farming.

In 1957, Wendell and Ruth accepted God’s calling, packing up their young family and moving to Alberta, Canada, to attend Bible College. Four years later, he accepted an assignment as a missionary, overseeing two orphanages in Ireland, one 40 miles south of Dublin and the other 40 miles northwest of Dublin. For 25 years, Wendell and Ruth mentored orphans and raised their seven children.

When he retired from the mission field at age 65, they moved back to Danville. Wendell has authored seven books of poetry and other books of his memoirs. In addition to their seven children, Wendell and Ruth have 18 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren.

2013 Hall of Pride Recipients
(Photos courtesy of Studio K)

Bob Dodds

Bob Dodds grew up on a farm outside of Danville. His ancestors settled near Danville in the early 1800s, and he attended Danville schools for primary and secondary education and graduated from Danville High School in 1942. After graduation, he continued to farm with his father while attending Burlington Junior College (now SCC) until being called to serve his country in the U.S. Army/Air Force during World War II.

When he returned from serving in the military, Bob enjoyed a diverse career path. He owned and ran a drive-in restaurant, the Knotty Pine, and belonged to a number of service organizations including Farm Bureau, National Farmers Organization, Masons, Elks, Eagles, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, the Des Moines County Livestock Feeder Association and the Danville Methodist Church.

Following in his grandfather William Drennan Dodds' footsteps, he was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1956 where he served until elected to the Iowa Senate in 1962, where he remained until 1970. He was a Kennedy delegate to the 1960 Democratic National Convention. He founded Bob Dodds Insurance in 1972 and continued running it until his death in 1998.

In his later years, Dodds devoted much of his time to ministries and served as minister of Bonaparte Baptist Church for 17 years while publishing a weekly faith-based newsletter called The Bottom Line. Bob was Chaplain for the Burlington Bees and Midwest League Chaplain coordinator for many years. He was also a Prison Minister and a Chaplain for  Burlington/Des Moines county law enforcement.

Born on July 27, 1924, he was the son of Horace and Florence (Hillgartner) Dodds and was first married to Lulu Johnson and subsequently to Frances Floyd. He has five children: Luana Lambert, Jeffrey Dodds, Tami Bainter, Lisa Bartruff and Degee Wilhelm. His siblings are Jean Schnupper and William Dodds. He also has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Renee Luers-Gillispie

Renee Luers started school at Danville in the 8th grade and was quickly a friend to everyone she met. A natural athlete, she focused her efforts in basketball and softball. She graduated from Danville in 1979, the same year Danville was Conference Champions in softball. A softball pitcher, Renee first attended Kirkwood Community College. During her two years there, she took the team to the National Junior College Championship Tournament and was ranked the ninth-best pitcher in the NJCAA. From Kirkwood, she accepted a full-ride scholarship to West Texas State University near Amarillo, where she set nine career pitching records, including most wins, most strikeouts and most saves. Renee was honored in 2005 by being inducted into the WTSU Athletics Hall of Fame.

Her softball coaching career started in 1991 at Joliet Junior College where she inherited a team with a record of 2-29 and, in one short season, turned the team around to a 32-12 record, the Conference Championship and the NJCAA Regional runner-up.

The next six years, Renee was Head Softball Coach at Bradley University (1993-1995) and then at Texas Tech (1996-1999). In late 1999, she was contacted by the University of Central Florida in Orlando and offered the Head Coaching job for a program that had yet to be created. She would have the opportunity to create a NCAA Division I softball program from the ground up. She spent the first year recruiting and building a softball complex and the program was in full swing in 2002, where they finished with a 46-19 record, including a 21-game winning streak. In 2005 and 2008, Renee led the UCF Knights to Conference Tournament Championships. Her program has appeared in the NCAA Tournament four times (2005, 2008, 2010, 2012) and, under Renee, the Knights have a record of 402-284-1 over 11 years. Renee has an NCAA record of 607-460-3.

Beyond developing winning softball programs, Renee is actively involved in volunteering her time for the community of Oviedo where she lives, in Orlando where she works, and in other national organizations. She volunteers her time at the Babe Ruth League, Boy & Girl Scouts of America, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, and community service events throughout her church. Her players are rated first in community service hours above all athletes at UCF.