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Archive for June 14th, 2021

Over the years many of you have heard me talk about Dorothy Smith Brown who was my Home Economics teacher for 6 years – Jr High through High School and a life-long friend. Her life of 107 years was celebrated last month. My cousin Delmar and my friend Chris were able to last visit with her in September 2019.

I have felt forever blessed that I met Dorothy at the age of 12 when our family moved to my dad’s hometown Stratton. She was a wonderful mentor to so many of us….she imparted much knowledge from her Home Ec. classes and I still draw on that knowledge today and share with those around me. We had a life long friendship which I treasure. It was Dorothy I called after I read “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan….I wanted to hear and learn more about the Dust Bowl in Eastern Colorado. It was great to visit with Dorothy over the years and hear more about her and her ever-growing family of which she was so proud.

I would like to share her obituary with you as it is a beautiful tribute to her life.

Erma Dorothy Cross Smith Brown was born on January 15, 1913 in her family home near Union, Nebraska to parents Carl Cedric Cross and Erma Blanche Mougey Cross. She was the eldest of three sisters (Dorothy 1913, Ruth 1915-2013 and baby Margaret 1918-1922). In 1922 the family was stricken with scarlet fever and baby Margaret died as a result. In 1920 Carl moved the family to Eastern Colorado to a piece of land 13 miles straight north of present-day Arriba near the Arikaree River. In the fall of 1920, Dorothy started 3rd grade in a one room sod house called Mount Lookout. After completing 9th grade at age 13, Dorothy went to Arriba to live with a family to attend High School. In 1929 at age 16, armed with a scholastic scholarship earned by being Valedictorian of her graduating class, she enrolled at Colorado A&M (now Colorado State University). Economic hard times during the “Great Depression” forced Dorothy to put her education on hold after three years. In 1932, Dorothy married John Oscar Smith whose family lived about 8 miles west of Dorothy’s home. Dorothy and Oscar’s first home was a very small house, about 5 miles from the school where Oscar had obtained a rural teaching position. Dorothy and Oscar were able to lease several acres of land to farm and raise a few head of cattle and hogs along with turkeys and chickens. Oscar taught school at day and farmed at night. Dorothy and Oscar were blessed with four children, Gordon Cross (1933), Margaret Jean (1936), John Robert (1938) and Richard Carl (1940). Dorothy raised her family, tended to livestock and helped Oscar farm when possible. In 1944, during the worst part of World War II, the Arriba Public School System Superintendent asked both Oscar and Dorothy to join the Staff. Dorothy was to teach English, establish a school library, and teach other subjects as needed. Neither Dorothy nor Oscar had completed their college degrees, so they immediately began taking correspondence courses and enrolled in summer school back at Colorado A&M. Dorothy earned her BS Degree in Education majoring in Home Economics in 1945. Dorothy and Oscar continued to go to summer school each year for many summers thereafter. They both went on to earn their Master of Education degrees in 1959. This was the start of Dorothy’s long career as teacher and mentor to so many in Eastern Colorado. She went on to teach for the next 31 years. In 1950, Dorothy and Oscar moved to Stratton to join the Stratton High School faculty. Dorothy was to rebuild the Home Economics program and teach English Literature. In 1955 Oscar became Superintendent of the Stratton Public Schools. It was in 1957 that Oscar and Dorothy began discussing the feasibility of building a new state of the art Junior and Senior High School facility. Dorothy had a special ability in developing the necessary elements of the plan to accomplish this undertaking. Of course, Dorothy was influential in developing “her” specification for the modern Home Economics classroom and the Library. In 1973, Dorothy was recognized for her teaching talents and overall contribution to education by being chosen as the Colorado Mother of the Year. After retiring from teaching she did not remain idle. She and Oscar enjoyed restoring their farm outside Arriba, planting and harvesting a huge garden both at their farm in Arriba and in Stratton and playing golf at the Stratton Golf club. Dorothy took great pride in preparing nutritious meals and was a wonderful homemaker. Sadly, Oscar passed much too early in April of 1983. In addition to time spent on projects with Oscar, Dorothy, along with two others, spent many hours writing and editing the History of Kit Carson County, capturing stories of its people, its communities, and its memorable events. She was a leading force in establishing Stratton’s Public Library and Stratton’s affordable housing project. Dorothy was instrumental in the effort that became the Kit Carson Carousel Restoration project and later she was one of the leaders in the formation of the Kit Carson Carousel Association. She also grew a beautiful yard and garden. As a Master Gardener, she was active in the local gardening club and until recently wrote a gardening column for the local paper. In 1988, Dorothy married UGene Brown. UGene and Dorothy were able to enjoy a motor trip to Virginia to visit several of UGene’s family and take an awesome 1989 Summer Alaskan Cruise before his death. In 2016, Dorothy moved to the Legacy, an assisted living facility in Burlington. She enjoyed living at The Legacy and interacting with the other residents and the staff. She had many visitors and made many new friends. Dorothy was a lifelong Methodist. Her life was deeply rooted in the Methodist Doctrine of “Grace and Accountability”. Dorothy and Oscar attended the First United Methodist Church of Stratton singing in the choir and being faithfully active. Dorothy enjoyed working with the Methodist Women and always participated in church wide conferences and meetings. Her unfailing faith was recognized when the Rocky Mountain Peaks and Plains Women chose her as a “Quiet Disciple”. Participating in church activities and taking time for Daily Worship has always been a way of life for Dorothy. Dorothy reveled in the fact that all her kids married their childhood friend and that all the marriages were so successful. She doted on her multitude of grand kids, great grand kids and several great-great grand kids. Dorothy had a lifelong love of needlework and made sure to craft at least one special needlework project for each of her sixteen grandchildren. Dorothy in her own words: Persevere- don’t give up; Inspire- you can do it; Collaborate- we can do it; Always here if you need me- A Life Well Lived. Dorothy, at 107 years old, is preceded in death by her husbands, John Oscar Smith and UGene Brown, her daughter Margaret Jean Mason McGriff, her son in laws Max Mason and Willie McGriff, her daughter in law Judy Conarty Smith, and her granddaughter Linda Leah Mason Poulin. She is survived by her son Gordon and his wife Eleanor, her son John Robert, her son Richard and his wife Margene, her step daughter LuAnn and her husband Jerry Lucas and a multitude of grand kids, great grand kids and several great-great grand kids.

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