Eric and Maci Doden always knew they’d end up in Fort Wayne. For Eric, it was a homecoming. Maci, a Wisconsin native, fell in love with the area later.
“There are no better places to raise a family than here where you still have amenities. If you want to do something, you can find it here,” says Maci. “The quality of life is hard to beat.”
That life is a busy one for the Dodens. Maci is a federal law clerk and Eric has spent the past two years as the CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc. He also owns his own business, Domo Ventures, and they’re raising four active kids. Lawson, 16, just got his driver’s license and is enjoying the newfound freedom that comes with it. The only girl of the bunch, Quinn, 15, starts high school in the fall. They describe Rylan, 13, as the most social of the four children, who spends his free time playing basketball and tennis. Jones, 11, is currently writing his first book and training for cross country.
Maci laughs, “It’s like we have our own law firm – ‘Lawson, Quinn, Rylan & Jones!’”
As for how they manage their demanding careers and their family, Eric chuckles, “We don’t think about it. We just do it.”
They’ve travelled all over the world, but always come back to their roots in the Midwest. “We like to visit smaller communities that aren’t on some Top 10 list. We want to expose our kids to all areas of the country, but we love Midwestern values,” Eric states.
Not surprisingly, Eric uses those family vacations as an opportunity to get fresh ideas for development in our region. “I’m always thinking about economics. What can we bring back to Fort Wayne?”
Both of the Dodens work downtown and are excited about the growth that’s happening there, but also love the solitude of their 20-acre property that allows them to get outside and re-energize.
“We love to hike,” Eric explains. “You know, bury the phone, bury the computer. Get out to nature.”
For all the hustle and bustle of their daily lives, Eric says people might be surprised to find out how quiet their family really is. “It’s very peaceful. The kids are around reading books, doing their own thing, playing a board game. Part of the thing about living in the country is that if they’re going to be entertained, they entertain themselves.”
“We’re all quiet and reflective,” adds Maci.
The couple met in law school at Valparaiso University and just celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary. Over the years they’ve learned the importance of making their relationship a priority. “A happy marriage gives your kids stability. We try to make sure we have enough time alone so we have a strong marriage,” Eric says.
When it comes to parenting, they say they take that responsibility seriously, but don’t take themselves too seriously. “Say yes as often as you can because there are a lot of things you have to say no to,” says Maci. “Choose your battles. We laugh at ourselves so they can laugh with us.”
Eric agrees, saying he sees himself as a sort of coach. “I’m helping them reach their full potential. Instead of shielding them, prepare them for what they’re going to face in the world.”
They eat dinner together as a family as often as they can, though scheduling can sometimes make that difficult. And Maci avoids the quick and easy trap of fast food whenever possible. “I’ve found that a sandwich can be ‘fast food.’ Vegetables and fruit can be ‘fast food.’ I don’t have as much time in the kitchen as I’d like, but we make do.”
Eric says Maci is too modest about her cooking. “She can whip up a gourmet meal in 15 minutes with the ingredients we already have in the pantry or the fridge. She’s really good at that.”
Regardless of whether it’s at the dinner table, in their back yard, or on vacation, they try to savor the fleeting moments they have as a family.
“We just feel like we’re given this gift for a period of time,” Eric says thoughtfully. “Our job is to grow responsible, respectful kids. We’re trying to raise them to be successful adults and help them become what they’re meant to be.”
And they believe there are many reasons Fort Wayne is the best place to do that.
“People,” Eric says unequivocally. “They’re the best thing about living here. Relationships. We’ve lived a lot of different places and I don’t think there’s a finer people in America than in this region.”