TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - An elderly man who died using his body to shield his wife from a withering hail of bullets when a gunman sprayed a crowd in Tucson on Saturday, was remembered for his heroics on Tuesday.
Dorwan Stoddard, a 76-year-old retired construction worker, died saving his wife, Mavanelle, by covering her on the ground as the gunmen shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others at a street corner congressional outreach event.
“We are just blessed that he is walking with the Lord now, but what a way to go,” Mavanelle’s daughter Angela Robinson, said during a morning news conference at Tucson’s University Medical Center on Tuesday, at which the relatives of the dead and wounded joined medical staff to tell their stories.
A 22-year-old college dropout, Jared Lee Loughner, made his first court appearance on Monday on five federal charges, including the attempted assassination of Giffords, who remains in critical condition.
Among the dead were a federal judge, a congressional aide to Giffords and nine-year-old student Christina Taylor-Green, who was being escorted to the event by a family friend to get a glimpse of government in action.
This was the second love match for the retired couple — they were boyfriend and girlfriend in sixth grade. After both had 40-year marriages end in a spouse’s death, they were reunited through a cousin and soon became a couple again, Robinson said.
Only after going with her husband to the emergency room did Mavanelle realize she had also been shot. She was listed in fair condition on Monday and is doing well, despite the traumatic ordeal, another daughter Penny Wilson said.
“She is doing quite well, I think,” Wilson said. “She has a lot of strength.”
Also at the news conference was Bill Hileman whose wife Susan was shot three times and suffered a broken hip at the store, while escorting Taylor-Green to the “Congress on the Corner” event.
Hileman said his wife was having “flashbacks” to the incident during moments of transition between sleep and waking, Bill Hileman said.
“She’s calling out ... ‘Christina, Christina! let’s get out of here! Let’s get out of here!” he said.
Hileman’s voice wavered as he struggled to describe how he told his wife that the girl had died. He said that as soon as Susan had a tube removed, allowing her to talk, she asked about the girl.
“She grabbed my hand and looked in my eyes and said, ‘What about Christina?’” he said.
Writing by Tim Gaynor, editing by Greg McCune