Tucson shooting survivor makes Boise new home

The woman says she has always relied on family and God — and she shared that advice with President Obama.

awebb@idahostatesman.comJanuary 22, 2014 

Congresswoman Shot Anniversary

Mavy (pronounced MAH-vee) Stoddard and a portrait of her late husband, Dory. Mavy got to know U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who is now retired, after both were injured in a shooting three years ago.

MATT YORK — ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • ABOUT THE 2011 SHOOTING

    January 8, 2011: Six people were killed and 13 wounded at a “Congress on Your Corner” event sponsored by Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a Tucson Safeway store. Among the dead were federal District Court Chief Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman, one of Giffords’ staffers; and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green.

    The shooter, Jared Loughner, pleaded guilty to 19 federal charges. He was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms, plus 140 years in prison.

Mavy Stoddard is supposed to use her cane to get around. But when she faced Jared Lee Loughner at his sentencing hearing in 2012, she refused to take it with her when she walked to the witness stand.

“I wasn’t going to let him see that,” said Stoddard.

She wanted to look Loughner in the eye and tell him what he’d done to her family.

When Loughner opened fire on a crowd at a shopping mall in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011, Stoddard and her husband, Dory, were there by chance. They were out for breakfast and decided to stop by and say hello to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was there meeting with the public.

Mavy Stoddard took three bullets to her legs. One is still there. Her injuries might have been worse, but her husband, Dory, blocked her body with his. He died in the attack, along with five others.

“I had no idea I’d been shot,” said Mavy Stoddard.

She saw that Dory had been hit and held him in her lap. She had time to tell him she loved him before he died.

“I just told him, ‘Honey, breathe deeply.’ That finished his journey,” said Stoddard.

She recently moved to Boise to be closer to family. She shares her small apartment — filled with family photos and landscapes by her favorite artist, Thomas Kinkade — with a shih tzu named Tux, short for Tuxedo.

“My faith, and this little dog, have gotten me through,” said Stoddard, who’s in her mid-70s. “He’s 8 years old. I’ve told him he has to live as long as I do.”

ACCIDENTAL ACTIVIST

Stoddard has been public with her story, despite the grief and trauma of losing her husband.

She’s also had to heal from her own injuries.

The bullet that passed through her calf did considerable damage. She endured months of antibiotics and physical therapy, even tai chi, to help get her balance back. She received 900 cards after the shooting. She said she read every one, and replied to many.

Since the shooting, she and her fellow survivors have traveled to Washington to advocate for smaller ammunition clips and better background checks on gun buyers.

“We tried to meet with the NRA, but they wouldn’t talk to us,” said Stoddard, who owns a gun.

“I don’t want to disarm the country. I just want some common sense.”

She believes God gave her a gift — being able to speak before hundreds of people without getting nervous. She spoke to large groups before leaving Tucson.

“I want to tell people to talk to their kids about doing the right thing,” she said.

CHILDHOOD SWEETHEARTS

Mavy speaks out for her husband. Dory, a retired heavy equipment operator, was her sixth-grade boyfriend.

“I wrote about him in my diary,” said Stoddard.

The two parted when they got older. They married other people. Dory had four boys with his first wife. Mavy had four daughters with her first husband.

The two grade-school sweethearts met again years later after their spouses had died. They married and spent 14 years together. They remodeled a house. They put 92,000 miles on their car and visited 30 countries.

“We did so much together. I never thought I’d be that close to someone, but Dory and I clicked,” said Stoddard.

After she was shot, she met President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. The president asked Stoddard how she and Dory had managed to have a perfect marriage.

“I told him you put God first. And I told him to kiss his wife in public, to let the world see how much he loves her,” said Stoddard.

The president “very humbly” told her he was working on those things, she said.

KNOWING GIFFORDS

The survivors of the shooting have gotten close. Stoddard visited several times with Giffords, who was badly wounded, losing some of her vision and ability to speak. Giffords visited Stoddard’s home.

“I sat with my arm around her like I would one of my children. She spoke slowly, one word at a time,” said Stoddard.

Each time she’s seen Giffords since, the former congresswoman’s speech has improved.

“I think she’ll come all the way back,” said Stoddard.

Passing anniversaries of the crime haven’t gotten any easier for Stoddard, even though Jan. 8 has some positive significance — it’s the birthday of one of her daughters, Angela, and of her granddaughter, Harmony.

This year, Stoddard got 13 calls from friends in Arizona and several cards. One friend said she was glad Stoddard wasn’t there to see all the news coverage.

Stoddard is loathe to give “credence” to the man who hurt so many. She’s grateful that Loughner confessed so that there was not a long, drawn-out trial.

Stoddard said she’s forgiven Loughner. It took her a year.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve done. But if I hadn’t forgiven him, God wouldn’t forgive me,” she said.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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