James Dobson, in a family photo

It’s been 178 days since James Dobson was struck and killed by a motorist in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, while he was cycling across the country on a fundraising ride. He was 32.

For his mother, it’s as if the accident happened yesterday.

Cindy Dobson broke down in tears this week recalling his laughter, adventurous spirit and passion for life. She sobbed at the thought of burying her son on Mother’s Day weekend.

“We’re not supposed to bury our children. It’s been very hard,” she said. “I have a hard time holding on. I miss him a lot.”

The burial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Oakdale Cemetery in Sanford.

Dobson, of Lebanon, set out on Oct. 1, 2018, for his cross-country bike tour to raise money for Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon, New Hampshire. It was a charity that meant a lot to him as several members of his family have been affected by cancer.


Dobson recorded videos of his trip and posted messages and photos to his Facebook page, Positive Vibes Tour. His goal was to finish in San Diego.
Riding a trike, he covered 1,500 miles before he was killed on Nov. 13, 2018, by a motorist on U.S. 98 in Lamar County, Mississippi. His mother said he died instantly.

“He was determined to make it,” she said. “He would have made it. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind.”

Dobson grew up in Berwick and graduated from Noble High School in 2004. He then attended Husson University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

His mother described him as the type of guy who’d rather travel than work a 9-to-5 job. He was a free spirit, she said, someone who accomplished anything he set his mind to. She recalled him making wallets and purses for the Wounded Warrior Project, and knitting mittens and hats for the homeless.

“He just loved doing things like that,” his mother said.

When he was 24, Dobson traveled to Poland to play for a professional football team. He also played on a semipro team, the Cobras out of Alfred.


In 2012, Dobson founded Next Level Sports, LLC in Eliot. His mission was to help football players in high school and college make it to the next level. According to his obituary, he would create highlight videos and set up training plans for young athletes who wanted to excel in their sport.

One of the highlights of Dobson’s life was a cross-country trip he took last summer in a van that had 300,000 miles. He paid for the trip by doing odd jobs in the places he stopped and visited, his mother said.

“I’m so glad he got to do that,” she said. “He saw everything.”

Cindy Dobson broke down in tears reflecting on the closeness they shared, remembering how he saved her life when he was 11. She was in a dark place emotionally and he just happened to call at the right time.

“He kept me on the phone for 20 minutes,” his mother said. “If it wasn’t for him calling me, I wouldn’t be here. It’s hard … he’s gone. He’s always been there. He was always that light in my darkest times.”

A gravestone is being made for Dobson engraved with the picture of him that accompanies this story. His mother said he was always smiling.


“It’s been a long six months,” she said. “It feels like it just happened. I talk about James constantly, which seems to help me.”

Her goal is to continue the charity ride for her son this fall.

In addition to his mother, Dobson is survived by his fathers, Michael Smith and Milliard Ellis; and his brothers, Zack Watkins and Michael Ellis. He is also survived by his girlfriend, Stephanie Leclerc.


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