by Toni Strickland
The first time we heard the name John Dorman, it was when we were invited to a pancake breakfast. Taylor was 14 years old and had been nominated through his Boy Scout troop to receive the “Eagle Scout—John Dorman Duty-to-God Award.” It was 2008, and the first year this award was being given. We didn’t know anything about it, but Taylor was nominated and invited, so we went.
We showed up for breakfast that morning, and—while the pancakes were amazing—when the ceremony began, we realized we had been invited into something very special. A group of men began talking about their friend… a man described as a big man… a bigger-than-life man… a “man’s man.” As they continued speaking of him, his legend grew in the room.
He was a proud Eagle Scout and maintained one of the most incredible knife collections anywhere.
He was deeply invested in the outdoors and reveled in God’s creation.
He had many passions, was a friend of many, and was well-loved.
He always had a way of giving a piece of himself to others.
One of the reasons we were having breakfast was because this man cooked breakfasts better than anyone… with steak, waffles, and all the “fixins”!
His friends laughed as they shared about a time when he wore a dress at the JCUMC Fall Fashion Show—and that they had pictures to prove it.
One of the friends shared how he loved his mountain cabin in North Carolina, and had invited the friend and his boys to spend a weekend there camping out. This friend reminisced on how the overstocked pond made fishing a breeze. Fish would jump out of the lake onto the deck and hook themselves! And the man recalled the raging stream beside the cabin that roared like a locomotive, reminding him of his friend. “I always knew when he was in the room because he was a ‘bigger than life’ man.”
The man’s friends likened him to what a Montana rancher would look like—a “Big Sky” person… with rugged, good looks… tall and strong… convicted. This man was all about tradition.
We were riveted, as was everyone in the room. Some knew who this man was. Others, like us, did not. We wanted to hear more, and there was more to hear.
These men went on to share about their friend’s faith:
“He felt God in his heart so deeply, he went back to the beginning in the King James Bible.”
“Old Testament fervor. Revelations interpreted like I had never heard. [He] woke up at 4:00 in the morning to watch his favorite Old Testament preacher.”
“[He] struggled with anything less than a conservative understanding of the Word. [He] went deep into the history, the culture, and the meaning, and he shared it to us all.”
“[He] taught me to have passion for Jesus. [He] had REAL passion for Jesus.”
This man they were speaking of was none other than John Dorman, the award’s namesake. John’s wife Lynn and their son Andrew were there. Unfortunately, John was not. In early 2007, John had lost a two-year fight with cancer.
But that was not the end of John’s story. The men that were speaking about John were men from his Bible study group. John was a dedicated member of that group, but also their leader. Soon after his passing, these friends of his, along with Lynn, set forth to honor John and to recognize his legacy of faith and family by hosting a father-son memorial breakfast where they would present the John Dorman Duty-to-God Award. This award would recognize one Eagle Scout who best exemplified the character traits that John embodied—namely, duty to God, leadership, and service to others. Along with earning the award, the scout would be presented with a specially engraved knife in keeping with John’s passion, and all qualifying nominees would be recognized with a specially engraved leadership Bible.
Six Eagle Scouts were nominated that day, each one more qualified than the last. And after we all had gotten to know John Dorman, I think every one of those Scouts desired to receive the award—to somehow be associated with this amazing “bigger than life” man. As each Scout was introduced with examples of how they lived out duty to God, leadership, and service to others, I remember thinking, “Oh, he will certainly win.” “This one will be given the award.” “What an amazing young man.”
When they finished presenting the nominees, we all held our breath as they prepared to announce who would receive the first John Dorman Duty-to-God Award. Then I heard the name: “Taylor Strickland.” I am rarely shocked, but I was that day. So was Taylor. He was surprised, but also grateful and honored. While so young, Taylor had a great deal in common with John. He had a knife collection, loved to fish, co-led a church small group, was a proud Eagle Scout, and loved the outdoors. John was a man Taylor could relate to and look up to.
Taylor received the distinct title of the first recipient of the John Dorman Duty-to-God Award, a leadership Bible, and the coolest knife. The knife was presented and described this way:
- This knife is adorned with charms of a cross and a compass—the cross because of God’s ultimate sacrifice through Jesus… and the compass because our “spiritual true north” is the Word of God. It points us to Jesus. He is our destination and where our focus must be.
- This knife is a man’s knife. It represents John, who was a special man made in God’s image.
- The blade is made of raw steel, crafted by its maker as God crafted man.
- The stainless steel of the blade reminds of us of purity.
- The fishing lure represents God’s creation in nature. We chose this symbol because of John’s love of fishing, and to represent all our lives together as “fishers of men.”
- The handle of the knife, a ram’s horn, represents the armor of God’s love—in that, as sharp as the blade of the knife is, the handle protects the blade as God protects those He loves.
We had no way to relate to the significance of this day for John’s friends, wife, and son. Their loss was still fresh and raw; however, in their grief and through a labor of love, they took what God had begun in John and made a way for him to continue impacting the lives of others.
Eight years later, in 2016, we would lose Taylor. Having begun the Taylor Strickland Legacy Foundation, we couldn’t help but think back to that time.
I don’t know how it works in heaven, but I like to think that John and Taylor have met. Maybe they are fishing every day in the greatest fishing hole ever. Maybe they have started a new collection—or if God allows it, they sometimes look down and see that the life He gave them is still producing fruit. We can only dream!
One thing I am sure of is that the two of them live on in new ways. Each summer, the Taylor Strickland Legacy Foundation provides scholarships to a father-son high adventure camp. There is classroom time during that camp, and in that room, on one of the tables sits the leadership Bible that Taylor received from John. It has a purpose as it is read, and in whatever way God chooses to use that, I believe He is allowing John and Taylor to continue to serve others.
This year’s breakfast will be held on March 18, 2023. A whole new group of people will be introduced to John Dorman. Like us, I think they will marvel at the man who was bigger than life and the legacy he has left for us to follow.
Maybe you know a Scout who you’d like to nominate this year, or maybe you are curious to learn more? You can visit John Dorman Duty-to-God Award or their Facebook page at John Dorman Memorial Duty-To-God Award | Facebook.