The Strange Death of Danny Dodge
An auto scion, an island girl, and an afternoon of playing with dynamite.
Mar 4, 2008 Gerald Volgenau
(page 2 of 3)
Lorraine (whose name was sometimes spelled Laurine in newspaper stories) was tall, athletic and, in her later years, given to wearing large hats.When Danny broke the news of his wedding plans, the Dodge family was aghast. His widowed mother, Matilda Dodge Wilson, apparently pegged Lorraine as a gold digger who only wanted a piece of the family fortune.But in the end, Danny persevered. The couple was married August 2, 1938 at Meadow Brook Hall in what is now Rochester Hills.
Newspapers reported that days later the honeymooners showed up at Danny's lodge on Manitoulin Island. Lorraine made her presence felt within days. Dodge fired his longtime caretaker and hired three of Lorraine's friends - Frank Valiquette, Lloyd Bryant and Bryant's wife.
Then on August 15, disaster struck.
The story gets a little muddled at this point, but apparently Danny and his new helpers were out one day doing stupid kid tricks. Now remember that Dodge was only 21. The three men were in the garage literally playing with dynamite. They were laughing and lighting dynamite sticks and throwing them out the window. Lorraine looked on from the door.
At one point, Danny lighted a stick and threw it, but it hit the window ledge and bounced back inside. By some accounts, it set off a pile of dynamite caps on the floor.
The blast was horrendous. Wood splinters and metal fragments flew everywhere. Newspapers reported that all four were injured and burned. One newspaper quoted doctors as saying Danny Dodge's injuries apparently were so severe that he could not have survived.
Bryant, in fact, lay near death. His body was riddled with splinters and shrapnel. His stomach was cut open and an artery in his arm was slashed. It's unclear why they chose not to drive a car. Perhaps the rough road would have been too painful for the injuries. Instead, they decided to use Dodge's boat to get to Little Current, an island town to the northeast.
All four of the wounded, plus Bryant's wife, got into the 250-horsepower Lodge Torpedo speedboat. Lorraine, despite her injuries, took the wheel. Valiquette sat beside her. Danny and the Bryants were in the back, with Bryant's wife desperately trying to stop her husband's bleeding.
If the lake waters had been smooth, Dodge's speedboat could make the trip to Little Current in about 40 minutes. But the North Channel waters were not smooth that day. The boat was battered by waves more than four feet high. After two hours, the boat had only reached Honora Point and was still another 40 minutes from Little Current.
After two hours of struggling with the high waves, Lorraine finally accepted that she was too injured and too exhausted to continue driving. "I asked Frank (Valiquette) to take over driving the boat," Lorraine testified later at a coroner's inquest. "My arm hurt so badly." That's when it happened.