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Dorothy Valentine McGinnis

©Judy Vorfeld

photo of Dorothy V. McGinnis 1998It was only a matter of time . . . in the last year or so she warned me several times that she wasn't doing too well, and didn't dare buy green bananas. On Tuesday, August 17, 1999, Dorothy V. McGinnis died. Born February 14, 1904 in Brady, Nebraska (population 380), she lived a life brimming with challenges and delights. She spent much of her adult life in California's Bay Area.

During her working years she traveled extensively with a friend who had a matching sense of adventure and humor. They visited the ruins in Mexico, Guatemala, South America, and drove to Alaska the first year the Alaska Highway was opened. Once this intrepid twosome got locked inside the famous Casbah in Tangiers. They visited museums, attended ballets, theaters, and symphony concerts.

After retiring as owner/manager of an employment agency, Dorothy took a two-year course in Art History that enabled her to become an art docent in the Museum of California at Oakland. For almost 20 years she escorted visitors through the art gallery, interpreting and discussing the relationship between the various forms of art. She also served as a goodwill ambassador for the museum. Finally it was time to retire. Dorothy moved to Sun City, where I later became her computer tutor.

Ninety-five years of living shaped her into one of the most fantastic women I've ever known, and I only knew her the last few years of her life. She was my pupil and my friend, but she was also my teacher.

Surfing the Internet meant a great deal to Dorothy, and she resolutely hobbled over to her computer and parked herself in front of it, in spite of severe osteoporosis, arthritis, congestive heart failure, profound hearing loss, and macular degeneration. (Being oriented to computer lingo, she called it "macro" degeneration.)

How Dorothy loved sending and receiving e-mail! She marveled at the way it allowed her to stay in touch with family and friends. She loved her family and friends deeply. And the joy of her life was her son, Bob, his wife, Mary, and their family.

Intent on increasing her vocabulary so she would never be boring (to herself or others), Dorothy usually memorized a new word each day. Her battered dictionary and synonym finder rested close by her day bed. She called everyone, "Dear," and she meant it.

Dorothy never criticized me, although sometimes I tried her patience! Sometimes when we sat at her computer, I'd get impatient and try to do something for her rather than wait for her. When this happened, she'd say, "Now, dear, get your hand off the mouse. You know I want to do it myself. Otherwise I'll never master it."

Jack and I sometimes took Dorothy to her favorite Chinese restaurant. One of the most beautiful sights I've seen is the ecstatic look on her face as she savored her Sweet and Sour Chicken. And the thrill of taking the leftovers home! Sheer joy.

She always looked at life and herself from the inside out, and rarely saw herself as elderly. She used an Amigo to buzz around her retirement home, and she loved it. Dorothy the Hot Rod Kid.

She struggled with excruciating pain and her body's weaknesses...but there was so much yet to enjoy...Dorothy reveled in the beauty and challenge each day offered, fighting death with courage and breathtaking ferocity, but finally it was time to go.

Dorothy spoke little of her past, but I believe she raised her son, Bob, by herself. Just after her death, he said something that refuses to go away, "Not only was she a good mother, she was one helluva father."


This article is part of the Handling Adversity series, by Judy Vorfeld

Mark Brennaman | Lucia Fort | Jacques Gesret | Dorothy Valentine McGinnis

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