John F. Russell: Dudley leaves his mark on Steamboat

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— Most people think of Jim Dudley as a friendly hometown doctor. He’s a guy we trust with our children when they are sick. He’s the guy we turn to in an effort to make sure our families are in good health, and in a way, he’s partly responsible for the well-being of our whole community.

But one of my fondest memories of the doctor came in May 1998 under the bright lights that shined on a soccer field in Englewood.

That year, Steamboat Springs High School girls soccer team rose to the top of the state playoffs and played in one of the most exciting soccer games in the school’s history — or at least since I’ve been covering girls soccer.

Dudley, a mild-mannered coach who never uttered a bad word about the opposing team or his own players, was the head coach that year. His unassuming style was reflected in the way the team handled itself on the field. The girls were confident but never took winning for granted.

The final game of the season wasn’t easy.

At the end of regulation, the state title game between Steamboat Springs and Palisade was tied at two goals apiece. Two overtime periods couldn’t determine the state champion that year, and the title came down to a shootout. Steamboat prevailed with four of the team’s shooters scoring and Ellison stopping key Palisade shooters to put the game out of reach well after the sun had set.

Through it all, Dudley remained caring, modest and gracious. I’ve know Dudley for almost as long as I’ve lived in Steamboat, and his disposition never seems to change — it doesn’t matter if he’s coaching from the sidelines or seeing a patient at his clinic.

He’s no longer the head high school coach, but every year Dudley coaches young players on the soccer field. He also gives his time to provide physicals for middle school and high school students. He charges about half his normal rate for the physicals because his father told him that nothing worth having ever comes for free. If you want what you do to have value, you have to charge. So the doctor charges, but he donates the money to the Steamboat Springs High School Booster Club.

I was thrilled when it was announced that Dudley was one of the recipients of the second annual Doc Willett Health Care Heritage awards. Dudley received the Health Care Professional award, and Steve Dawes was honored with the Health Care Advocate award. Both selections are well deserved.

Dudley is more than just a doctor or a soccer coach. He’s that friendly hometown doctor we all expect to find in small towns like Steamboat Springs. He displays the type of bedside manner that makes living in communities like Steamboat appealing. We are lucky to have doctors like him who are active members of our community — doctors who take an interest in their patients that stretches well beyond the exam room door.

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