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Amy Dianne Dorsett, devoted daughter, sister, aunt and dear friend to many, passed away unexpectedly on Thurs., Nov. 22, 2012.
Born on April 19, 1973, in Paducah, Ky., to Hugh and Dianne Dorsett, Amy was 2 years old when her family moved to Lafayette, La. It wasn't long before her knack for spreading news (such as announcing to the entire street that her family had paid cash for their lawnmower) earned her the family nickname "The Mouth of the South" by first grade.
That playful, curious, communicative spirit stuck with Amy throughout her life. Her love of words took root early. When she was learning to read, her dad, who traveled on business, would challenge her to take a front-page newspaper story each week and be ready to discuss it when he arrived home.
Her family moved to San Antonio when Amy was in 7th grade. She found journalism at MacArthur High School, where she traded her flute for a pen, telling her mother that newspaper, not band, would make a difference in college and her career.
While at Sam Houston State University, where she earned a journalism degree and minored in political science, Amy met legendary television journalist and fellow Texan Dan Rather, for whom the university's communications building is named. She had contacted him by phone for a story in advance of the building's dedication and, thanks to Amy's urgings, he agreed to meet privately and in person with her and other students on the newspaper staff and answer any questions they had about their craft and possible future careers.
It would be the first of many audiences Amy would command with people she admired because of her sheer will and ability to turn introductions into opportunities and relationships. Others throughout the years included then-Gov. George W. Bush, longtime national press member Helen Thomas, as well as beloved poets and authors Maya Angelou and Naomi Nye, the latter - from San Antonio - who became a friend.
Amy's newspaper career began with a summer internship at the Houston Chronicle and a stint as a reporter for the Plano Star Courier. She joined the staff at the San Antonio Express-News in 1997. In almost 12 years at the Express-News, Amy reported on a wide range of subjects, including crime, history, a Spurs championship run, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She also wrote obituaries and was skilled at capturing the nuances and details of people's lives.
Amy crafted sparkling stories at almost lightening speed and, when appropriate, wove her considerable wit into her copy. Her writing was fresh and straightforward and often humorous, just like her.
Health problems began to emerge while Amy was still in her 20s. She underwent surgery in 2001 to remove a benign, walnut-sized brain tumor. A lover of all puns, she nicknamed the tumor "Wally."
The increasing challenges to her health brought on by several autoimmune disorders, including lupus and multiple sclerosis, eventually led Amy to make the difficult decision in 2009 to take long-term disability from the career she loved. She moved in with her parents, who, over the past several years, lovingly cared for her and, importantly for Amy, allowed her to transform the back wing of their home into her own sacred space.
In addition to the physical manifestations of her conditions, her beloved words had started to slowly slip from her sharp mind. But even as this slide continued, Amy continued to finish each week's New York Times crosswords on Monday and Tuesday, then give the rest of the week's a try.
Despite the often exhausting and painful symptoms of her illnesses, Amy gracefully strove to stay positive and as active as possible. She helped raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society through two bike teams - the Third Street Grackles and the MH vs MS team from Methodist Healthcare - to help find a cure for MS. Former Express-News editor Bob Rivard, a member of the Grackles, said the team has taken the remarkable step of registering Amy posthumously as an honored member of the team. As the first non-riding Grackle to be named a Top 100 fundraiser, Amy set an example for others who have come to support the cause without cycling, he said.
Throughout her illness, Amy stayed in touch with her many friends and continued to make new ones. She loved her pet Dachshund Frankie, Starbucks, the Oscars (she was sure to see all the contenders for Best Picture before the red carpet unfurled.) She cherished watching niece Anna, now in college, grow up and took special interest in her friends' children - celebrating their milestones and buying them special gifts. She was a godmother of three.
Amy, a lifelong Christian, helped start a women's Bible study group that met consistently for 12 years and served as a deep source of comfort for her. When her church, Alamo Heights United Methodist, put out a call for volunteers to put together a cookbook to mark its centennial in 2010, Amy stepped up and served as chairwoman. Thanks to her work, the cookbook was one of the church's most successful such projects and proceeds went to help pay for mosquito netting for families in Africa.
In recent years, Amy also turned her talents toward helping seniors learn how to use their electronic devices. She would sit with them for hours, patiently explaining how new technologies such as iPhones and iPads would help enrich their lives if only they could learn not to be intimidated by them. She especially wanted others to experience the joy that electronic and digital communication through the written word and shared photos brought to her.
The beauty of Hawaii -- particularly the island of Kauai -- was especially soothing for Amy, who had traveled there regularly beginning in high school with her family, most recently in July.
Amy appreciated the beauty of the written word and life in general. With her eye for detail, she enjoyed making intricate handmade greeting cards for family and friends, which always contained the added gift of her eloquent well wishes. In her own Bible, she noted Proverbs 16:24: "Kind words are like honey -- sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."
Amy's family and friends take comfort in the knowledge that she did not suffer in death.
Amy is survived her parents; sister, Ginger Dorsett; niece, Anna Catherine Setar; grandmother, Frances Russell; numerous aunts, uncles and cousins; and close friends Roger and Eric Haynes. A memorial service will be held Friday, Nov. 30, at 10 a.m. at Alamo Heights United Methodist Church. Her family requests that memorial donations be made to the
, The Lupus Foundation, Alamo Heights United Methodist Church, or to the National MS Society on Amy's posthumous fundraising site at http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/Amy_Dorsett.
Published in Express-News on Nov. 29, 2012
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