On the Occasion of her 90th Birthday
By Anne Roberts
I wish I had known Dottie sooner. As she is about to celebrate nine decades on this good earth, I realize that I have not known Dottie long enough.
Fortunately there is no lack of amazing memories of times together and times past: singing Christmas carols around the piano with brass candle sticks alight, and holly, and the warmth of so many friends packed together inside her gracious Craven Street home.
Another Christmas gathering in the Carteret Street townhouse with a candlelit reading of “A Christmas Carol” and budding ballerinas performing “Nutcracker” improvisations for Miss Dottie.
Music, books and good company: Dottie practicing sight reading at her piano, dancing at the Old Commons Neighborhood’s spring concert, waving as the Marine Corps band passes by at the start of parades. Dottie stops at the library to explore things digital but usually ends up with a curious classic. She holds court under the yellow umbrellas at the Best Western’s sidewalk tables, sometimes stopping at the Bay Street Trading Company for book talk with Will, or going on to Emily’s for she crab soup.
Dottie loves Beaufort – its gardens, its people and its happenings. From the high, pillared porch on Craven Street, she greeted friends, natives, and interesting “come heres.” Some were favored with an invitation for tea and scones in the magically landscaped back garden. Swimming in the Creek is a summertime tradition for Chloe, Mary, Helen, Dottie and friends. The red wagon is loaded with boiled peanuts, fruit, delectables, and towed out to the pavilion at the end of Chloe’s dock. The tides are figured precisely. There are “noodles” for youngsters, but the intrepid founding foursome seldom use them.
Dottie and I have similar political leanings, yet are not always on the same page. We do enjoy learning the issues from neighbors Fred Washington, Mike McFee, Donnie Beer and Mayor Billy. Dottie listens attentively, shows up for City Council meetings and charrettes – and then votes her own mind. Many of us believe that Dottie single-handedly saved us from proposals of hot metal benches and expanses of concrete for the Waterfront Park’s renovations. After she gave up her VW convertible, Dottie rode her bicycle to these civic gatherings. Now she goes on foot but graciously accepts the offer of a ride from those with wheels. On the hottest, coldest or on thundershower days, she might stop at the specially designated “Dot’s Spot” on Rebecca Davenport’s porch.
Then there is the chic: Dottie in her straw gardening hat toting mulch, tending her roses and trimming her boxwoods. Dottie’s shade hats for creek and beach swimming, Dottie dressed for a soiree in white lace for summer, jet black, shining white hair and just the right wrap for winter. For shopping on Bay Street or going to the library, a perky beret, tartan plaid skirt and perfectly color coordinated socks. There is that distinctive tweaking of a phrase – fantasy topped with a wealth of wisdom. And the ever changing upgrades to house and garden décor. Working out the details – the “appointments” – with Randy, Mary Magee and Sara Tetley to transform a small space into intimate nooks and expansive welcomes.
There is the central importance of Dottie’s Sky Room – Dottie’s vision of a green, nurturing space in our neighborhood. We congregate in the Sky Room for morning coffee, or for an afternoon tea, or wine at the end of the day, and for Dottie’s stories of growing up on the farm – the folklore and hymns of Robeson County, stories of her high flying adventures as a single professional woman in Charleston, and wonderful times on the beach at Hunting Island with Cecil McDaniel. The Sky Room – a perfect place to celebrate and rejoice in the charmed company of Dorothy Boone McDaniel.