November 9, 1923 – March 8, 2013
Dorothy Mae (Byam-Harrison) Sheldon passed away and began another journey on March 8th, 2013. For those who knew Dorothy, it won't come as any surprise that she chose International Women's Day for her new adventure.
Dorothy was born in Weiser, Idaho to Miranda Harrison and Raymond Byam. Dorothy was the only child born of this union, however, she had eight siblings from her parents' previous marriages: Mary, Helen, and Charles Byam; Newman, Shelby, Frank, Elizabeth, and William Whittier.
Dorothy was orphaned at 13 months old, when her mother passed away, and was lovingly reared on a farm in Twin Falls, Idaho by her maternal uncle, Sherman Harrison and his wife, Ida Isaacs. Dorothy knew Ida affectionately as "Auntie" and she was the only grandparent Dorothy's children ever really knew.
Dorothy went to a country school for eight years and then graduated from Twin Falls High School in 1941. After graduation, she enlisted in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) where she served as an Aerial Gunnery Instructor, 2nd Class during World War II.
On April 21, 1945, Dorothy married Dwight MacFarland Sheldon II (Tim). Tim was a student of hers during the war. Dorothy and Tim had four children: Kathleen, Judson, Dwight "Mac", and Sue. Baby Judson died at birth.
After the war, Tim accepted a commission in the U.S. Army, which took their family to many parts of the United States, including Fairbanks, Alaska, as well as three years overseas in Germany. While stationed overseas, Dorothy took a special 30-day tour of Russia and the Communist Block countries. This adventure was only three years after the Berlin wall was erected and very few Westerners were allowed to travel behind the Iron Curtain at that time.
Dorothy, who grew up knowing she would someday be a teacher, attended Albion State Teacher's College and Utah State University before receiving her Bachelors in 1957 from the College of Idaho. She taught both elementary and junior high in Boise, received her Master of Education in 1962 from the College of Idaho and then taught at American Dependent Schools in Augsburg and Stuttgart, Germany. After returning to the United States, Dorothy was hired as a Title-I consultant for the Idaho State Department of Education. Tim's last assignment was near Salt Lake City, and Dorothy returned to school attending the University of Utah, and received her Doctorate in Education in 1969.
After Tim retired, the family moved to Steilacoom, Washington, and Dorothy was hired as a Professor for Central Washington University, opening the Clover Park Teaching Center for Student Teachers. She wrote the curriculum for ten courses in the areas of Creative Teaching, Gifted Education and Women's Studies and taught these courses for many years, both on and off-campus.
After 27 years of marriage, Dorothy and Tim divorced in 1972.
In 1974, Dorothy moved to Ellensburg and opened the Kittitas Teaching Center for Student Teachers. In 1980-81, Dorothy re-trained at the University of Michigan in Women's Studies and the University of Connecticut in Gifted Studies. For the next five years, she was the Director of Women's Studies at Central Washington University. During this time, she started PENTA, a program including five school districts designed to provide resources in rural areas for gifted children, and sponsored by the CWU School of Professional Studies. During the program's twelve years, thousands of children from Kittitas, Cle Elum/Roslyn, Easton, Thorp and Damman came to the CWU campus to work with their mentors, and participate in many enriching extra-curricular activities. Dorothy retired from CWU as a Professor Emeritus in 1988, but only because at age 65 it was the law at the time!
Her professional recognition included awards for founding the PENTA Program for Gifted; her work for Women's Programs; gratitude by the Central Teachers in Training, Outstanding Service by the WA Educators of Talented and Gifted; Appreciation by CWU for 19 years of service and the 2004 Women's Achievement Award. Dorothy served as President of Delta Kappa Gamma and Foundation Representative for Phi Delta Kappa and had numerous other educational affiliations.
Prompted by her fond memories of attending a two-room country school, in 1974 at age 51, Dorothy bid on the old Woldale School in Ellensburg, which was being auctioned by the local school district. Her bid was accepted, and this historic property became her "preservation passion" for nearly 40 years. She often joked that she would be remembered not as a full professor, but as the "lady who bought Woldale School". She lovingly preserved, renovated and remodeled both buildings on the property, and built four separate living areas in them that she used as rentals. She carefully selected each renter, the highest criteria being that they would cherish Woldale as much as she. Dorothy is much loved and respected by all of the previous occupants.
In 1991, at age 68, Dorothy co-founded the Ellensburg Unitarian Universalist congregation at Woldale School with her dear friend, Alan Merson, and became their lay leader. In 1995, she was accepted into the Master of Pastoral Studies program at Seattle University, and in 1997 she was ordained as a UU minister. She spent the next ten years serving as chaplain at the Kittitas Valley Community Hospital. Dorothy officiated at many marriages, baptisms and memorial services.
In 1998, at age 75, Dorothy was encouraged to run for Kittitas County Commissioner. She undertook her campaign with the motto, "Growth with Dignity". The election was close, with Dorothy being edged out by the local mayor by only 500 votes. That same year, again demonstrating she was never too old for another adventure, she participated in a six-day white water rafting trip through Hells Canyon with members of ROW (Radical Older Women)!
In 2005, when she was 82, Dorothy had 18 years left in her 100-plus year life plan so she built a business raising free-range chickens and sold their fresh, organic eggs, branding them "Woldale School Eggs". She had five very happy years providing the most delicious eggs to the local health food store, as well as shoppers at the local farmer's market and many individual customers. Dorothy soon became known as the "Egg Lady".
In addition to her other activities, Dorothy has been a staunch advocate and supporter of social justice. For many years, Dorothy was an active member and President of the Kittitas County Human Rights Coalition, advocating and assisting with the many different social justice issues in the county. She greatly enjoyed organizing the annual Martin Luther King celebration in Ellensburg.
In 1994, age 71, Dorothy was given a book entitled "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg. She began writing, using Natalie's methodologies, and attended many of Natalie's annual writing retreats in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1996, she began the practice of writing the story of her life when she was the same age as one of her children or grandchildren on their birthday. For example, when a granddaughter turned 15, Dorothy would present her with the story of her life when she was 15. Her heirs now have many treasured stories written by the matriarch.
During Dorothy's last month of life, she received a phone call from Natalie Goldberg inviting her to come to Seattle and read with her during the release of her new book, "The True Secret of Writing" in which Natalie had featured one of Dorothy's own stories. When Natalie heard that Dorothy was too ill to make the journey to Seattle, she immediately express-mailed her new book to Dorothy. Dorothy was overjoyed to see her story in print and proclaimed "I am published!" Dorothy's daughter, Sue, has been working with her mom for the past two years to compile all the stories, digitize all the photos, and publish them in a book for family and friends. This project is a celebration of Dorothy's life and in Sue's capable hands, will be completed.
As part of her teaching curriculum, Dorothy designed a project entitled, "Create Your Future – Plan to Live to be 100". Her motto was, "Better to run out of time, than to run out of plans." Dorothy had plans of her own that would take her to 115 – but as it turned out, she ran out of time.
Dorothy was truly a great lady. The lady who bought, renovated and lived in Woldale School for 40 years; the lady who ran for county commissioner; the lady who taught at CWU; the lady who started PENTA; the lady who started and led the Unitarian Universalist congregation; the lady who was the hospital chaplain; and finally The Egg Lady. One Great Lady, indeed!
Dorothy is survived by her daughter Kathleen Sheldon of Lynnwood, Washington, son, Mac Sheldon and his wife, Randi, of Oregon City, Oregon, daughter Sue Sheldon and her husband, Bob Bottman, of Shelton, Washington; ten grandchildren: Sheldon (Todd) Rosevear, Caroline (Carrie) Rosevear and her husband, James Paxton, Preston Sheldon, Erin Sheldon and her husband, Rob Hickey, Amy Robinson and her husband, Jeff, Tim Yepes and his wife, Ailene, Anna Chally-Sebastian and her husband, Bernabe Sebastian, Randi Chally, Jeni Chally-Smith and her husband, Jason Smith, and Ian Sheldon; nine great-grandchildren: Makenzie and Austin Robinson, Trenton Nguyen, Maggie and Ella Hickey, Dario and Raymond Yepes, Niles Paxton, and Madison Smith.
Donations may be given to Kittitas County Human Rights Coalition or your local women's shelter.
An online memorial may be found at https://dorothy-sheldon.forevermissed.com. Please feel free to visit this site and share your memories of Dorothy. A celebration of Dorothy's life will be held at the United Methodist Church (210 N. Ruby) in Ellensburg, WA, on Mother's Day weekend; Saturday, May 11th at 2:00pm.
Published in Daily Record from Mar. 27 to Apr. 3, 2013
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