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Dora Ohlsen Gaye

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BURLINGTON -- Dora Ohlsen Gaye, known as Dorothy to her friends and family, formerly of Shaftsbury, and Pelham, N.Y. died at Birchwood Terrace Healthcare in Burlington on March 12, 2004 at the age of 97 years.

The second of six children, Dora was born in Schleswig, Germany on Feb. 3, 1907, the daughter of Helene Freiderike Ohlsen Christiansen and stepdaughter of Nicholaus Christiansen. She attended local schools through the eighth grade as was the custom at the time.

Dora began work as a housekeeper at age 14 at Untied’s Hotel in Schleswig. She came to the United States in February 1928 to work in Brooklyn and Mt. Vernon, N.Y. She met Hans Friedrich Gaye in New Rochelle, N.Y. in 1930.

They married in Catskill, N.Y. in August 1931.

Hans encouraged Dora to expand and refine her talents, so she attended Yorkville Millinery School in New York City, graduating in 1937. Soon thereafter, Dora and her husband took up residence in Pelham, N.Y., where she opened her millinery store. The business flourished as word of Dora’s creative and artistic talents with made-to-order hats became known. The business always served everyone equally, but when women’s hats were in style, Dora was the sought-after milliner of Manhattan’s and Westchester County’s society. Dora ran the business until the family moved to Vermont in December 1960.

Dora and Hans bought some property in Shaftsbury in 1950 and began coming to Vermont on weekends and summers, eventually building a new home there. Dora belonged to Shaftsbury’s 1-40 Club, was a founding member of the Shaftsbury Garden Club, and a member of the Vermont Chapter of the Business and Professional Women’s Club. Dora was also a longtime participant in the Shaftsbury Farmers’ Market, where she sold her handmade crafts, stuffed animals, wreaths and imaginative Christmas ornaments.

Dora’s husband predeceased her in May 1965 after nearly 34 years of marriage. She continued to live alone and maintained her rural home until 1984 when she moved to the village of South Shaftsbury. At her own insistence, and despite failing eyesight, hearing and memory, Dora courageously lived independently until March 1998 when she moved to Burlington’s Ethan Allen Residence, an assisted-living facility. In January 2002, Dora moved into the special care unit of Birchwood Terrace Healthcare, where she lived out her life under the tender care and kind attention of her family and the staff.

Throughout her long life, Dora was a loving and accepting person who gave from her heart with open hands to any who were in need. Her greatest accomplishment was her unfailing support of her beloved husband, Hans, and of their only son and his family.

Dora is survived by her son and his wife, John Henry and JoAnn Cook Gaye and two grandchildren, John Matthew and Christopher William Gaye, all of Essex.

Per Dora’s wishes there will be no public services. Those who wish, may make contributions in Dora’s memory to the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Shaftsbury or to the Shaftsbury Garden Club. Arrangements are by the Boucher and Pritchard Funeral Home in Burlington.
Published in Bennington Banner on Mar. 15, 2004
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