PARKERSBURG - From the battlefield to the pulpit, Cecil Dotson has lived a full life since his 1914 birth in rural Ritchie County.
Dotson's birthday was actually Friday, but family and friends celebrated the event Saturday with a surprise luncheon for him at CJ's Italian Kitchen in Vienna.
Dotson moved to Parkersburg when he was 12 years old. One change for him was the setting for school. He went from one-room schools to Parkersburg High School.
Photo by Jeffrey Saulton
Cecil Dotson, right, shown with son Doug Dotson, left, was honored Saturday on his 100th birthday with a surprise luncheon at CJ’s Italian Kitchen in Vienna.
"I told people I attended the one-room university, all eight grades in one room," he said. "I attended Parkersburg High School but I didn't graduate, I had to go to work.
"I went in the army later - much later."
Dotson said he worked at the American Viscose plant for 18 years and after his service in the U.S. Army he preached for 60 years.
* Cecil Dotson was born in Ritchie County on Jan. 17, 1914.
* His family moved to Parkersburg when he was 12 years old.
* He left high school to work before he graduated and worked at the American Viscose plant until he was drafted during World War II.
* After the war he became a pastor in the Church of Christ, serving churches in West Virginia and Ohio.
Although he came to Parkersburg at a young age, after World War II he said he probably spent more time away from Parkersburg than he spent in Parkersburg. He said as a pastor in the Church of Christ he moved around to different congregations.
Today he is a member of North End Church of Christ in Parkersburg. Although he was never pastored there, he has preached there over the years.
"I preached in many places and sometimes I would be gone as long as seven years with different congregations," he said. "I served churches in West Virginia and Ohio and I preached single services at churches in other states. It was scattered."
Dotson said the church closest to Parkersburg he pastored was George Street Church of Christ in St. Marys.
"I was there two different times," he said. "I was there a total of 16 years."
Dotson is a widower.
"I've lost two wives," he said. "One in an accident and one a natural death."
Dotson was drafted into service during WWII and after basic training in Florida he was assigned to the Fifth Army, commanded by Gen. Mark Clark. He was awarded the Purple Heart during his service in Italy.
"I got shrapnel in my hand and in my knee," he said. "I was in the hospital for about 20 days, give or take a few days."
Dotson said the incident was about three months before the end of the war in Europe. When he was sent to Italy, Dotson experienced the front lines the first night he was there.
"When I got there they led me up to the front line and left me in a fox hole alone," he said. "They aren't supposed to that. We had the placed surrounded."
Dotson said all through the night he heard guns firing and he assumed they were German or Italian.
"I found out is was our guns firing out," he said. "I didn't know how to determine whose guns they were. They should have not put me there alone. It's in the rules but they didn't follow them."
After that experience Dotson said he saw to it he was not in the same situation again. When the war was over, Dotson said he did not contemplate staying with the army in peace time.
"I was on my home on almost the day after it was over," he said.
Dotson said the trip back home almost didn't happen.
"They told us the war was over and we were put on a plane that flew past Rome to Naples and we were told we wouldn't have time to change clothes or shave," he said. "When we got there we were told it would be a two-week delay."
When they began their journey back to the U.S. by ship, he said they were facing another delay.
"We went half a night and the next morning we were told we're going back because the boilers had filled up with salt," he said. "We started back toward Italy but the next morning they told us they got the boiler going again and we were going home."
Dotson said they were on the water for 28 days, but that didn't bother him because "I was coming home."
Since they arrived at night, Dotson said they had to stay on the boat one more night.
"We were discharged after that," he said.
Dotson said after the war he didn't go to a seminary.
"I bought myself a library and taught myself," he said. "I was busy from then on."