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Gilly Dotterer, a lost voice and dear friend

By Son of Oyster Point


(Sportsmen) Gilly, Rufus Barkley, David Maybank and Tommy Rivers. Images provided.


Gaillard Townsend Dotterer was a fun person. A human cure for boredom. His passing several weeks ago at the age of 84 has left a large void in his circle of friends and acquaintances. In some ways, he could have been considered a Charleston treasure.


That voice! When he spoke, you would know who it was before you even saw him. His deep Charleston brogue was a classical relic that is sadly fading from vogue. You had to smile when he hailed you down with his “Hey Bo!” If you were a Yankee, you might have thought he had a speech impediment or worried how he could ever take that dialect on the road.


Gilly grew up in downtown Charleston and enjoyed an idyllic childhood with wonderful, loving parents. His mother tried to instill in him good manners and his father introduced him to hunting and fishing. Both succeeded. Throughout a life of ups and downs, Gilly’s one redeeming constant was his politeness and courtesy towards others. He didn’t let his momma down.


His love of the outdoors, hunting and fishing in particular, became his passion like many of the young men who grew up in the Lowcountry. His early circle of comrades was generally like-minded, and their adventures in the woods and waters led to lifetime friendships. He loved his friends and family, he loved his life and he loved Charleston.


Moultrie, Gilly, Jr. and master gardener Gilly, Sr. taking a break after planting the spring ’21 garden.


There were some experiments that tested Gilly’s ability to live elsewhere. He was sent to Episcopal High in Virginia to improve his education. He ran away, hopped a Greyhound and rambled back to Charleston. He finished high school at Charleston High and described the time there as his happiest days in school. Later in his academic journey, he gave Clemson a couple of years, but the lure of the Lowcountry was again too strong for him. He trekked back home once again. Charleston. His happy place.


Hunting, fishing, sailing, parties, drinking, good buddies. It was all his in his youthful years. For a while, that is. It’s strange, but sometimes life can get in the way of the good times. He gradually figured things out. He was born to hunt but forced to work — maybe not exactly what he had planned at age 20. His favorite job was running his shrimp boat with some help from his two sons. But as reality rolled in, he began his search for more stability. Through a long period of trial and error, Gilly found some things that didn’t work for him — but the insurance business did.


Why, one may ask, did it take so long to get traction? Well, there was an answer out there perhaps not well-known. From his teenage years forward, alcohol had been a big part of his life. He wasn’t considered a designated drinker, so to speak, but beer was definitely his buddy. Therein lay the problem, or so thought his sons, who were young adults at the time. They arranged a family meeting with their dad, and Lord have mercy, it worked! Gilly holstered his Bud, reloaded with Coke, never had another drink and life became good again.


And, of course, good things happen to good people. His insurance business began to flourish. He started to help others with drinking issues. Then Barbara appeared. She was nothing he expected and everything he dreamed for. He viewed her as his lucky Limited Edition.


“Happily ever after” is not realistic rhetoric, but for Gilly, the phrase was mighty close. His last 20 years at Rockville were his happiest, and he owed it all to his sons, who answered the call, and to the lady who loved him. Each summer he planted a garden, and he and Barbara took great pleasure in carrying fresh vegetables to their neighbors. They also loved cruising down Adams Creek in their pontoon boat and dropping a line in the North Edisto or behind Botany Bay. In his final wake, he left behind the water he loved, the many friends who miss him and lots of happy, funny and memorable moments. Thank you, Gaillard!


Gilly plowing his garden the old-fashioned way, a treasure from his uncle, Charlie Townsend.


Those who knew him feel fortunate for their friendship. Those who didn’t should consider looking him up when arriving on the other side. He was special. You might even hear him give you a shoutout: “Hey Bo!”


Son of Oyster Point prefers his journalistic correspondence to remain anonymous in the style of William Elliott III (1788-1863), author of a book beloved by all old school devotees to the field: Carolina Sports by Land and Water, first published in 1846.


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