What was supposed to be a thrilling weekend has changed a local family forever.
Michael Dorris and his wife of nearly a quarter century, Mary Ann, wanted to take their grandson on the adventure of a lifetime before he went away to college.
Now, the family is planning a memorial and remembering Michael Dorris, a man many called "Buddy."
He was an Eagle Scout who loved the great outdoors. So what better way to treat his grandson than a rafting adventure. Sadly, for the family, it was farewell.
Every bump on the rapids of the Chattooga River in South Carolina turned into outbursts of laughter as Michael and Mary Ann Dorris showed their grandson the time of his life.
"He'd never done anything like this, and he wanted to give him a thrill. And we were having such a great time," Mary Ann Dorris said.
It was 24 years ago when Mary Ann Dorris said the young trucking entrepreneur gave her the first of many thrills to come. She and her two young children were among the guests at their small wedding.
"He sang in perfect pitch, and he sang in my ear. And, man, I was smitten. He was great," Mary Ann Doris said.
Not only was her groom a great husband, but he was also a wonderful grandfather. Their grandson, Jack, is heading to Texas Christian University in the fall, and his grandfather was eager to take the teenager whitewater rafting before school starts.
It was just after lunch when six passengers and two guides began the bumpy and thrilling ride down the Chattooga.
Michael Dorris, ever the sportsman, was giving the guided tour.
"He was just so happy," Mary Ann Dorris said.
But then something terrible happened. Mary Ann Dorris said she was thrown overboard, recovered and was hanging on for dear life when the sound of her husband's voice turned to silence.
"Then I heard them hollering 'swim left, swim left.' And I saw Michael floating down the river head first. He was already dead by then," Mary Ann Dorris said.
Michael Dorris, 58, started Bentex Services around the same time he met his beloved Mary Ann. Long-time friend and vice president of the company, Bill Downey, recalled Michael Dorris' last words to him.
"'I'm going whitewater rafting,' (he said), and he grabbed his grandson and he kissed him on the head and said, 'right Jack?' And he said, 'that's right.' I said, 'please be careful,'" Downey said.
Mary Ann Dorris is nursing a bruised arm. It will heal. It's her heart that is breaking.
"I'll be fine. It's just going to take time," she said. "I know that Michael was with Jesus, and that's the most comforting thing I could have."
Mary Ann Dorris also said her husband was a seasoned lifeguard, but the coroner believes it was his fall into the rocky river that left him unable to survive.
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Eagle Scouts.
Michael Dorris' visitation and memorial service are set for Saturday at Brentwood Baptist Church.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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