Dorothy Barnes Stephens (AKA "Dottie") was born April 22nd, 1922 at 12:30 p.m. in the Community Hospital located in Santa Anna, California to Ray and Nila Barnes. She died from a stroke on February 7th, 2014 at 5:00 a.m. at Island Hospital in Anacortes, WA, surrounded by her family.
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Dottie grew up in southern Idaho and Orange County, California. She graduated from Tustin High School in 1940 and then entered Santa Ana Junior College where she met her future husband, James Russell Stephens (AKA J.R.), in art class.
In December of 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor prompted J.R. to ask Dottie to wait for him until the end of the war, which she agreed to do. However, as J.R.'s time of service drew closer in the summer of 1942, Dottie and J.R. decided to elope. They married on September 6th in Yuma, Arizona at the First Presbyterian Church.
At the time, J.R. worked for Douglas Aircraft and the two newlyweds moved into J.R.'s parents house while the drama of war and enlistment played out around the United States. Just ten days after returning home as husband and wife, J.R. accepted an offer to train at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles with the Army's Pictorial Service, a division of the Signal Corps, in order to become a combat photographer. This position allowed J.R. and Dottie to share five months together before J.R. was called to active duty in the Philippines.
One month after J.R. left for basic training, Dottie joined the Navy's division of "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service", or WAVES. Dottie trained as a radio operator at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. After turning down an offer to attend Officer Candidate School due to her high scores at Miami University, she was assigned to the Naval Radio Station (NPG3) at Treasure Island in San Francisco. She served in the Navy WAVES until April, 1945.
J.R. and Dottie reunited again during their wartime service when Dottie and J.R. were both assigned to Hawaii by coincidence. Although it was difficult to meet around their different duty schedules, they made it work. As a result, Dottie became pregnant with their first child while in Hawaii, and Japan's surrender and her shipment back to California for discharge were almost simultaneously. J.R. did not return until January of 1946, and in February, 1946, they gave birth to their first son, James Ian Stephens.
J.R. re-enlisted with the Army at the end of World War II, and in the following years leading up to 1965, J.R. and Dottie had three more children: Paul David, Diana Joan, and John Raymond. The family was stationed in Greece, Austria, Arizona, California, England, France, and Virginia. J.R. also spent 15 months in Korea away from the family after recovering from non-paralytic polio contracted in Austria. Dottie lovingly helped nurse J.R. back to health with physical therapy and hot baths.
In Tombstone, Arizona, Dottie joined a historical reenactment group where she played an 1800s lady of the town and also a dance hall girl. While in France, she was known around town as "La madam avec le petite voiture rouge", or in English, "The lady with the little red car". In fact, she was so well known that when President Kennedy was shot, the villagers piled into their living room, where Dottie made coffee for everyone and tried to communicate as best she could with her limited French.
Education was extremely important in the Stephens' household, and between Dottie, J.R., and the four children, 10 college degrees were awarded. In addition, all four children served in the military: two in the Navy, one in the Army, and one in the Air Force.
When all of the four children had left home in the 1970s, Dottie took up substitute school teaching at the same high school that J.R. taught at in South Florida. They both retired in 1979.
From the summer of 1979 to the summer of 2011, J.R. and Dottie spent their lives together on five acres of beautiful forestland. This home is where their grandchildren visited them for the first time and grew to love them dearly. It was in Washington that Dottie was able to explore many of her talents: ceramics, playing the electronic organ, crafting dolls and teddy bears, as well as practicing her long-time hobby as an amateur radio operator with the federal call sign K7JQA, even becoming a charter member of the Society of Wireless Pioneers.
In the summer of 2011, J.R. and Dottie bought a house in Anacortes, WA to be near their daughter Diana and her family. The humor, love, and joy Dottie brought to the world will never be forgotten by those who loved her. Her daughter Diana is especially thankful to have had almost three years to really get to reconnect with her mother and rediscover just how funny, witty, and kind hearted she was. Her two granddaughters, Dana Smith and June Gardner, are also thankful to have had the opportunity to build a relationship with Dottie, known to her grandchildren as "Grammy", that they will carry with them the rest of their lives. In Anacortes,
Dottie also became a great-grandmother with the birth of Alister James Gardner on November 23rd, 2011.
Dottie loved all living creatures, and she often rescued spiders invading the family territory. She scooped them up with the utmost care and gently let them down outside. Her true love, however, was dogs. She also had a special place in her heart for cats, who seemed almost unnaturally drawn to her when she visited her daughter's house. Dottie also always loved a good love story despite her distaste of opera, musicals, and western films.
Dottie spent 91 years on this earth giving of her heart and soul. She spent 71 years married to the love of her life, J.R., who survives her. Dottie is also survived by a legacy of her sons and daughters-in-law, James and Vicki Stephens of Georgetown, TX, Paul and Suzanne Stephens of Battleground, WA, and John Stephens and Morag Mckinlay-Stephens of Tauranga, New Zealand; daughter and son-in-law, Diana and Loren Smith of Anacortes; grandchildren, Dana and Stefanie Smith of Anacortes, June and Corey Gardner of Anacortes, Rosanna and Danny Chan of Panorama City, CA, and Brian and Abbey Stephens of Van Nuys, CA, and Mathhew Stephens of Eugene, OR; great-grandchild, Alister Gardner of Anacortes; and sisters and brother-in-law, Charlotte and Ed Sauer of Spokane Valley, WA and MimaJean Hughes of Florida, all of whom are deeply touched by her spirit and will carry it's torch by honoring her life with theirs for the rest of their days.
The world is a better place because Dottie lived in it. She will be missed and never forgotten.
A memorial service will be held at 3:00 p.m., Friday, February 14, 2014 at Family Life Assembly of God Church in Anacortes, followed by a reception in the fireside room. A family graveside service with military honors was held at Fernhill Cemetery in Anacortes.
Arrangements are in the care of Evans Funeral Chapel and Crematory, Inc., Anacortes, WA and the San Juan Islands. To share memories of Dottie, please sign the online guest register at www.evanschapel.com.
Published in Skagit Valley Herald Publishing Company on Feb. 12, 2014
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