As a greenskeeper and superintendent of the golf course at Crofton Country Club, William E. Dorsey Sr. was passionate about watching sports. He was especially loyal to the Orioles and first baseman Eddie Murray and shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., the Colts and quarterback Johnny Unitas, and the Ravens and middle linebacker Ray Lewis, free safety Ed Reed and quarterback Lamar Jackson.
But if there was one thing that riled up Mr. Dorsey, it was being reminded of the Colts’ decision to pack up and leave Baltimore one late March night in 1984 with little warning.
“He was hot when they moved to Indianapolis,” son Derrick Dorsey said. “I think he was still angry about that. Each time you brought that up, he would say something.”
Mr. Dorsey, a Gambrills native who served on a Navy destroyer for four years and worked at Crofton Country Club for 54 years, died Aug. 22 at Hospice of the Chesapeake in Harwood of mantle cell lymphoma. He was 76.
“He was the patriarch of the family,” said Mr. Dorsey, whose Facebook post on his father’s death elicited 499 emojis and 301 comments by Wednesday afternoon. “He essentially took care of everyone and was able to lend a listening ear and give advice to anyone who came to him and asked. So there’s definitely a giant void because of his loss.”
Mr. Dorsey was the sixth of nine children born to and raised by Benjamin Dorsey, a farmer, and the former Gertrude Anderson, a homemaker. In 1962, Mr. Dorsey graduated from Wiley H. Bates High School in Annapolis, the only public school in Anne Arundel County where African American students could enroll for a secondary-level education.
By September 1962, Mr. Dorsey had joined the Navy, getting stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. He then joined the crew of the USS Harold J. Ellison, working in the engine room of the Gearing-class destroyer that provided support for aircraft carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War.
After being discharged in September 1966 as a petty officer third class, Mr. Dorsey — who was honored in August 2014 by then-House of Representatives Minority Whip Steny Hoyer with the Navy Good Conduct, National Defense Service and Vietnam Service medals — returned to Anne Arundel County and was employed as a greenskeeper at Crofton Country Club. In 1978, he was promoted to golf course superintendent and then moved into management in the late 1980s, eventually finishing his career as a building maintenance supervisor.
Derrick Dorsey said his father was a jack-of-all-trades for the golf club.
“He was a very talented man when it came to the trades,” he said from his home in Bowie. “He could do carpentry, electrical, masonry. Anything that you could think of, he could do it. He could build a house from the bottom up, and he pretty much taught me those skills as well.”
As the superintendent, Mr. Dorsey lived in the superintendent’s house on the course with his family. That meant that he took it upon himself to handle as much as he could — even if that meant waking up in the middle of the night to see what had tripped a burglar alarm, elder son William Dorsey, Jr. said from his home in Mount Baldy, California.
“He was there 24-7,” said Mr. Dorsey, who received 993 emojis and 516 comments via Facebook by Wednesday afternoon. “That’s what his role was. He took care of it.”
The country club, which renamed a portion of its Traditions Grille to Dorsey’s, paid tribute to Mr. Dorsey via Facebook, and the post earned 163 emojis and 60 comments by Wednesday afternoon expressing sadness over his death. The outpouring of support resonated with his sons.
“It meant a lot,” Derrick Dorsey said. “It’s just amazing to me that a quiet country boy from Gambrills impacted that many people in the way that he did. He was such a kind man. He was a very low-key kind of guy. He wasn’t really stressed out. He just took everything even-keeled, was always polite. So to hear that back, it really meant a lot to me. … It was really nice for people to reflect and share the sentiments that we’ve always known about him.”
Although the younger son said no one subjected Mr. Dorsey to racism, that could not be said for other members of his family. His sons said they were the targets of racial slurs while growing up and playing around the house or near the golf course. And as recently as last month, two nieces who visited Mr. Dorsey were verbally accosted by a golfer who questioned their presence on the course.
“My cousins who are in the medical field came by to visit my dad because he wasn’t doing well, and they were confronted by a golfer who thought they didn’t belong there,” Derrick Dorsey said. “So he stepped out of his house barefoot and all and confronted the person. Of course, that person apologized and said he was sorry and that he was out of line.”
Mr. Dorsey did not play much golf. But he watched as much golf as he could on television once Tiger Woods emerged on the scene.
“I think he saw golf as being interesting once he saw an African American doing well,” the younger Mr. Dorsey said. “Tiger made it accessible for people of all races because when [my father] started, golf in itself was a very segregated sport. … So to see someone of color be so prominent and be so dominant in the game, he was kind of hooked by the game of golf by watching whatever tournament he was playing in.”
On Nov. 14, 1970, Mr. Dorsey married the former Betty Coleman in Severna Park. The couple met on a blind date at a restaurant in Washington, D.C., arranged by Mr. Dorsey’s cousin and Ms. Coleman’s friend. Mr. Dorsey was immediately smitten, according to his son.
“I believe he went back to his sister after that initial date, and he told her that he was going to marry that woman,” the younger Mr. Dorsey said. “And that was pretty much it.”
William Dorsey Jr. said one of his favorite memories involved him and his father spending one Sunday afternoon reading a book on how to solve a Rubik’s Cube and eating sardines dipped in mustard.
“We both read the book because he was interested in that as well because we just liked to solve problems. He was a big problem solver of any sort,” he said. “To me, it was knowing what he liked to do. After work, it wasn’t about work because that’s where he was most of the time. He liked to spend time with us. It didn’t matter if it was that or throwing a baseball around with us. He just liked being home when he was home and not worrying about the golf course.”
Derrick Dorsey said his father was a voracious watcher of television news, especially politics. He said he enjoyed debating politics with his father.
“If he had a point, I would always have a counterpoint,” he said. “It never got nasty or anything. We just like to share our opinions on things. Sometimes they aligned, and sometimes they didn’t. But it was still fun to have that kind of intelligent debate going back and forth. That was special for me just to see where he stood and to see where I stood. It was fun. I’ll miss those debates.”
A funeral for Mr. Dorsey is scheduled for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Mid Atlantic Community Church in Gambrills. He will be buried at Maryland Veterans Cemetery in Crownsville later that day.
In addition to his wife and sons, Mr. Dorsey is survived by one brother, Samuel Dorsey of Shady Side; two sisters, Elizabeth Dorsey of Bowie and Rosalee Dorsey of Gambrills; and four grandchildren.