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Boy who ‘ministered to all’ dies at age 13


- Community enables teen to have room of his own

- Dobson’s fight against cancer goes on, and his fan base grows

- He’s got mail–lots of it


Even at his young age, James Dobson seemed to grasp what was really important in life—and maybe that’s why people responded to him the way they did.

The 13-year-old, who fought  brain cancer since kindergarten, died at his home on Sunday. He was surrounded by those he loved, as well as the collection of sports paraphernalia that became his passion when his illness took him out of the game.

“He was just a rock, if you will, for all of us,” said his uncle, Tim Dobson. “He had his family with him, and that’s how he wanted it to end.”

In fact, James convinced his doctors at Children’s Hospital in Washington, where he’d been treated, to let him spend his last days in Spotsylvania County.

“He assured all those doctors that he knew exactly what he needed to do and the only thing they needed to do was to let him come home,” his uncle said. “He was able to look at his Mom and Dad and tell them he was ready to go be with the Lord.”

James was featured in The Free Lance–Star several times in recent years, and each article triggered an outpouring of love, support and financial donations, according to his family.

Before his 12th birthday, James announced that all he wanted was cards, lots of them.

A September 2011 story by Sports Reporter Adam Himmelsbach mentioned that wish and detailed his fondness for football—especially the Dallas Cowboys—and his dogged determination to keep going.

James played sports until he got sick and later became a super-fan for the Chancellor High School football team. At the time, his brother, Matt, was the starting quarterback, and father, Danny, an assistant coach.

That story went viral, and James got more than 6,000 birthday cards from across the country and beyond. And the notes and well-wishes kept coming throughout the next year, his family said.

An October 2012 story produced similar results.

As his 13th birthday neared, James wanted a room of his own. But because his body had been so damaged by treatments to stop the cancer, James’ parents, Cathy and Danny, weren’t comfortable with him being alone.

One or the other slept in the room with him, checking his breathing and turning him  to avoid bedsores from forming on his brittle skin.

But because James asked for so little and had been through so much, his parents wanted to give him the sense of independence he craved. Friends and co-workers started collecting money to buy a specialized bed that would rotate him and give respiratory treatments.

Community groups, schools, churches and individuals across the region contributed, raising $38,000 in two weeks—during a holiday season and in the midst of a down-turned economy.

“I never in a million years thought we would have raised that money in a short period of time,” Cathy Dobson said in a subsequent story. “It’s overwhelming. The community has just embraced James with their hearts. We’re a Christian family, and we just believe God touched people’s hearts because he knew James needed this bed.”

His family also believes James fulfilled his mission during his 13 years on Earth.

“He ministered to all he came in contact with, showing them what faith in God was all about,” according to his obituary.

A funeral service will be held for James on Thursday. His complete obituary will be in Tuesday’s newspaper.

Cathy Dyson:   540/374-5425