Emmett Dobbs spending time in the stands before a softball game.

“Funny first.” That’s how Seatac man, Emmett Dobbs, 81, is described by his adult children, Dana and Derek Dobbs. “You could never catch him at a loss for words,” Derek added.

Emmett was a witty, light-hearted, social man who loved a good steak and people watching at the local mall. He had diabetes and high blood pressure, but Emmett still managed a business, frequented the racetrack, dated and lived independently until he fell ill.

In Emmett’s younger years, he was a serious softball player and an even more serious recruiter. His land-surveying company, Dobbs, Fox & Associates, sponsored a local men’s softball team. Most of the players were from Puget Sound, but some he recruited from as far as California. The team even won a World Championship. This accomplishment was a source of pride for Emmett. But he was really in it for the fun. He loved sports and people — sponsoring his own team was the perfect excuse to watch softball and chat in the stands every day of the week.

A young Emmett standing by his work truck.

Emmett was hospitalized last fall after experiencing long-term symptoms from a bout of pneumonia that affected his breathing. He developed complications that required his transfer to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. There, his breathing took a turn for the worse, and his kidneys were no longer filtering properly due to medications and other factors. Eventually, he was put on a ventilator and dialysis machine. “It seemed like we were going to lose him,” said Dana. “But he came back like a champ and was about ready to be discharged from the ICU!”

Coach Dobbs ready to greet his softball team in the dugout.

Despite being hospitalized for weeks, Emmett still possessed a sense of humor. He teased the nurses and soon befriended the whole floor. “Apparently his doctor told him he had the skin of a 50-year-old,” said Dana, laughing. “He bragged to us about his ‘really good skin.’” 

“He bragged to us about his ‘really good skin.’” 

Unfortunately, Emmett’s love for food and soft drinks caused him to aspirate, and pneumonia won the battle. It was clear that he would not be able to return to his independent lifestyle. When the time came, Emmett chose to remove medical support, and he passed away the next morning. Dana and Derek were asked about donating their dad’s tissue, namely his skin. His “really good” skin. They struggled with this decision, as Emmett wasn’t a registered donor. They hadn’t discussed this with him. But when they learned how many people he could help, it made up their minds. This would be Emmett’s legacy.

L-R: Dana’s mother, Carol Dobbs; Dana’s fiance, Nika Mihailov; Dana Dobbs; and her father, Emmett Dobbs, pose for a photo at Dana’s military retirement. Dana shared that this is one of the few times when Emmett wore a suit!

Dana would soon learn first-hand the importance of her dad’s gift. She fell into a fire pit less than two months after Emmett’s death, and she was severely burned. Dana was transferred to the burn unit at Harborview, and she now shares a “whole new appreciation” for the life-saving gift of skin donation. Dana was able to use portions of her own skin to heal her burns, but she saw the patients who were dependent on the generosity of others, which affirmed that she and Derek had made the right choice for their dad. Emmett will continue to help others for years to come through the donation of his skin.

May is Older Americans Month, which celebrates how older adults have demonstrated resilience and strength throughout their lives while supporting and inspiring others. There is a special connection that comes from working together to build strong communities, and no connection is stronger than giving the gift of life!

You can make a difference in the lives of others at any age. Register your donation decision now.