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Associated Press/Photo by Nick Oza (The Arizona Republic)

In mourning

Shooting | The Tucson community and the nation at large remember the victims of Saturday's tragedy

TUCSON, Ariz.-Church services, memorials, candlelight vigils, and impromptu prayer groups have been popping up all over Tucson as residents seek out one another's comfort and company in the wake of a mass shooting Saturday that left six people dead and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who remains in intensive care. But for four area churches, whose members were among the victims, those gatherings have served as an outlet to remember and mourn the loss of their own.

Had U.S. District Judge John M. Roll not been following his daily habit of attending Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in North Tucson, it is unlikely he would have lost his life at the hands of alleged shooter, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, who so far has been charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government, and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee.

Though friends and colleagues describe Roll as a staunch conservative, he and Democratic Rep. Giffords knew each other well, so few expressed surprise that he accepted her last-minute invitation to drop by her Congress on the Corner event in front of the neighborhood Safeway grocery store. It was the kind of temperate, sunny January morning Arizona is famous for, and Roll called his wife to tell her he would be later than expected-he wanted to congratulate the congresswoman on her reelection after a hard-fought campaign.

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Early reports suggested that Roll, who was the chief judge of Arizona's federal courts, might have been the target of Loughner's rage, possibly as a result of a past ruling. But it soon became evident that he was simply, as Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik put it, "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

President George H.W. Bush, on the recommendation of Sen. John McCain, appointed Roll, 63, to the federal bench in 1991, and he had a long and distinguished law career. But when reflecting on his life, many who knew him discussed neither his rulings nor his résumé, but rather how his faith was reflected in his work.

Mike Urbanski, associate head for faculty development and student services at Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, described Roll as "one of our most illustrious alumni-not because of his position but because of the kind of man he was. His values, his integrity, and his compassion made him a perfect fit for his profession. Even as a teenager, John was always the voice of reason."

On the Catholic Phoenix website, J. Hanson recalled being part of a group of evangelical and Catholic law students Roll spoke to about the demands of the legal profession, the benefits of belief in Christ, and the need for practical wisdom in living out one's faith. "He was committed to Christian truth," wrote Hanson. "Or, as the person responsible for securing Judge Roll as a speaker this summer put it: 'He truly, passionately demonstrated truth.'"

No doubt many who knew Roll hold fast to the same confidence his friend Alan Sears had. "One consolation we have in our grief is that because of John's fervent love for the Lord, he is right now rejoicing in the loving presence of his Creator," said Sears, who is the president of the Alliance Defense Fund.

Another shooting victim, Dorwan Stoddard, was a retired construction worker and gas station owner, who also used his abilities to serve the kingdom. The 76-year-old was the man Tucson's Mountain Avenue Church of Christ turned to when they needed leaks fixed, the roof repaired, or other general maintenance. A soundproof room he built at the church so parents of crying youngsters could still listen to the sermon demonstrated Stoddard's talent for working with his hands. It is named "Dory's Room" in his honor.

Among their many areas of service in the church, Stoddard and his wife, Mavy, who was wounded but survived the shooting, especially enjoyed delivering food and flowers to the sick and providing transportation for those unable to drive. At a special memorial service on Sunday, the Stoddards' fellow church members gathered to share recollections of the couple's spirit of service. "They got into people's lives," said Jody Nowak, wife of pastor Mike Nowak. "They didn't sit on the pew and do nothing,"

Another speaker, Kat Joplin, said that when she and her husband were homeless, the Stoddards helped them get back on their feet by arranging for them to stay at a motel and then allowing them to stay at their home. Joplin said the Stoddards also helped her husband find a job.


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