Weekly Local Biography

  Dorsey Traw

Dorsey Traw is a preacher of the Church of Christ, who started his spreading of the word with ‘personal evangelism’, door to door, knocking on 40 a week. Like an insurance salesman in many ways, but Dorsey Traw says, “I was selling the greatest insurance of all!” He is also one man who can be thankful to turkeys every Thanksgiving Day (and every other day, you will read below). Now in his 70’s, he remains as enthusiastic towards his calling in life, his wife and his family, and dispensing homilies, as he has done for decades.

Dorsey was born in Missouri in the USA, the elder of two children born to a simple farmer and his childhood sweetheart wife. They were a strong Christian family, and they needed to be, to get through the American Great Depression of the 1930’s. As a boy, Dorsey worked on the farm, and his future, as far as he could see it then, was to become a farm boy.

However, his parents had other ideas for their son and heir. “My mother said I had to go to college. My father said that he wanted to see me get a good Christian education. The soul of education is the education of the soul,” said Dorsey sagely. And about here is where the turkeys come into it!

Dorsey’s father had come across a scheme where you were given turkey chicks and raised them. When they were fully grown, there was a guaranteed buy-back system, and he could see there was an opportunity for him to improve the family lifestyle by this means. He was good at it, got more chicks, sold more turkeys and the wheel of fortune began turning in earnest. So by the time young Dorsey Traw was ready to go to college, he could select a good Christian establishment and took on a three year course in bible studies - thanks to the turkeys.

In those days, final year students would often go and give sermons at weekends. Dorsey, who described himself then as being bashful and quiet, was asked to stand in for a congregation in East Nashville Tennessee, whose preacher was missing. It was then that his life’s work began. The congregation was impressed with their young and bashful preacher and asked him to stay on, and he did. “I’ve been preaching ever since,” said Dorsey.

From Tennessee he moved on to Saginaw Michigan, not a community known for its religious fervour, but that was about to change. “It was a challenge, but I did it for my God,” said Dorsey. It was here that he began his own brand of insurance selling. “Personal evangelism was what I was doing. I raised my congregation from 26 to 132 members in 18 months.”

By now he was 28 years old, and still single. “It’s something else to find a girl who’d marry a preacher,” said Dorsey. He also had made up his mind that he should enter the foreign missions, but additionally felt that to do so, he needed a wife. Like all young bucks he looked around, but no young lady had the right chemistry. Wives of friends would suggest suitable young ladies, and he even wrote one of these names in his book. The name was Ola Mae Hughes.

By a strange coincidence shortly afterwards he met a very nice young lady at a church seminar, and he asked her name. “Ola Mae Hughes,” was the reply! He then began to make enquiries, but found that she already had a boyfriend. “I had prayed for a movie star with a Christian heart, and this was her,” said Dorsey. He plucked up courage and asked her out but it was obvious that she was torn between her two suitors. “I can’t give you much,” said Dorsey one night, “but I can give you a prayer.” They prayed together for help and two weeks after meeting her he proposed and finally was accepted. “It was 10 o’clock at night,” said Dorsey, as if it were yesterday. I also got the feeling that night was a long wait!

And so, Mr. and Mrs. Dorsey Traw joined the foreign missions, arriving in Thailand December 22, 1961. Dorsey to spread the word, “I need to share Christ in the world. It’s the wind under my wings to do God’s will,” while Ola Mae began her time overseas in motherhood, with their first boy being born in Bangkok. This Christian family did not end up with an only child, as they then adopted two more (Thai) children. Dorsey rummaged around in his folder and produced a framed photograph of his movie star with a Christian heart, and his three children. To say that Dorsey Traw is a proud husband and father would be an understatement. Dorsey also brought out a clipping taken from the Reader’s Letters page in the Chiangmai Mail, to show me one written to the newspaper by his daughter now in America.

Despite now being in his 70’s Dorsey is still actively working. He spoke enthusiastically of the bible training programs that he has going in the nursery school for 70-80 children. He has bible distribution networks to service and addresses 24 places of worship here in the North. “I plan to die either walking into, or out of, the pulpit,” said our determined preacher. Noble sentiments, but I hope the congregation is as ready for his final calling as much as Dorsey is!

His hobby (apart from evangelism) is exercise and he goes jogging early in the mornings, putting the slothful like me to shame.

It is not often that you get to meet someone so brim full of enthusiasm as Dorsey Traw. At times it was difficult to get a word in edgeways as Dorsey launched off into another of his tales of yesteryear and promises of tomorrow. Always one with the homilies, he finished our interview saying, “If you can’t come across in person, come across in purse!”