Dorothy Pearl (Freitag) Bilyeu
My almost 97 year old mother-in-law, Dorothy, began her journey into a new world and a new consciousness, last week during the early morning hours of January 8th.
Dorothy was born and married into two Oregon Trail pioneer families. She was one of 9 children and learned to wash dishes as soon as she was able to stand on an apple crate, to peel potatoes as soon as she could hold a knife, and to cook, and clean at an age when most children are outside playing and having fun.
Dorothy attended school through the 10th grade but had the intelligence, and love of learning beyond her years. She taught herself to cook, to sew, to quilt, to crochet, to knit, and to do embroidery. She met her husband, Orval as he went by her school bus stop each day, and he quickly decided this was the little gal that he wanted to marry. Dorothy was only 15 that December, but going on 16 in January, so she needed her parent’s legal permission to marry at such a young age. Her parents gave it, liking Orval, and trusting him to take good care of her.
Orval and Dorothy were married on December 30, 1930 and shared a long and happy life together. Married for 57 years, they had four 4 sons together, living through the hard, and challenging time of the Great Depression raising each of the boys through a lot of illnesses, accidents, and other challenges. Dorothy was a very hard worker. She did fieldwork in hop and berry fields, worked at the Wilson’s Chicken Hatchery and for Stayton Canning. Dorothy learned to make do with what she had, and do the best with anything else that she was given.
When she was first married and especially during the Depression, she bleached flour sacks and cut them apart for fabric. She made all of her boy’s baby night gowns and little embroidery trimmed shirts, their little short overalls, and her own crisp curtains ,and embroidered and quilted bed quilts. She was an excellent cook, a particular housekeeper, and was always dressed in coordinated outfits that she usually made herself.
Together, Orval and Dorothy raised their boys with a love of the outdoors…and with gardening… whether it was her beautiful flowers or the many vegetables they grew for canning…with swimming up the North Fork, and camping along the Metolius River, almost every weekend. Dorothy and Orval were proud of their boys and all that they did, and accomplished.
Dorothy was known for clipping out newspaper articles about almost anyone she knew, but mostly for any mention of her boys, or even her daughter in laws, or the grandkids, and then saving them in big photo albums, and scrapbooks. Later, those albums were taken apart and shared between her boys and their families. She may not always have been able to say how much she loved us, or just how proud she truly was of everyone in her family, but all that she did for us, clipping articles, saving photos, and even making us her famous potato salad, showed us that deep down inside, she really was.
When Dorothy and Orval lost their firstborn son, Bill, at the age of 53 to cancer in 1987, they were devastated. Bill had survived going overseas and serving in the Korean War. He had worked so hard all of his life to do the best he could for his wife and children and yes, even his mom. Over and over all they could say was that it ‘just wasn’t natural, it just wasn’t natural’ that Bill died before either of them. I know for sure that it truly broke Orval’s heart because he, himself, didn’t last very long after that sad loss. Orval passed away on November 17, 1987.
He lived to see all 12 of his grandchildren born, and several of the great-grandchildren, that followed, as well. Dorothy’s life after the passing of Orval, was a hard one. She missed him terribly and was lonely even with all of the rest of her family left to comfort her. She met a very nice widower, and he was a dear companion for the second chapter of her life. She shared 17 happy years with Bruce in his house in Stayton, a house that she quickly made into a loving home. After Bruce’s death, Dorothy lived in their home for as long as she could and valued the friendship of her daytime helper, and good friends.
Eventually, we all found that it was time for outside help and moved her to Salem to a small care home near us. She missed her own home, terribly, she missed having all of her own things instead of just a few, and never really ever adjusted to living in one small room no matter how pretty it was, or nice it might really have been. She may not have been able to tell most of us just how grateful she was for our visits, there. But she was.
I used to blow her kisses when I left her care home each day, and she always smiled, and sometimes even laughed out loud, and a few times she even blew them back. When I told Dorothy that I had written a long speech about her for later on, and what she would most like to be remembered for, she replied: "That's for you to say!" And so, Dorothy..I did.
I gave a ten minute eulogy at her Funeral Service yesterday, on Saturday, January 12, 2013. Some of that is shared with you, here today, a lot more shared with family and friends at her service. Even at almost 97, she looked beautiful in the carefully chosen outfit that I selected. And she was completely beautiful.... from her peach blouse with cut-work, embroidery, and beaded pearl collar...by the addition of a pearl necklace, pearl and rhinestone earrings, and a beautiful lacy hanky peeking from the pocket of her velvet blazer....and hidden within that pocket a photo of her beloved husband and father of her four sons. I share this, because it was so very, very important to her that she look nice for her own funeral.
Dorothy is survived by three sons and their wives, 12 granddchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, and 3 great-great grandchildren.
We love you, Dorothy, just as you were. And we will miss you.... always and forever.
Michele Bilyeu blogs With Heart and Hands as she shares a quilting journey through her life in Salem, Oregon and Douglas, Alaska and all of her AAQI Quilting. Sharing thousands of links to Free Quilt and Quilt Block Patterns and encouraging others to join in the Liberated Quilting Challenge and make or donate small art quilts to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) Help us change the world, one little quilt at a time!