Dorothea "Dorde" Woodruff
1928 - 2018
1-3-1928 ~ 7-17-2018
Dorde loved so many things, and lived for so many things. She was a beacon of strength who redefined beauty and brains, and an exquisite mix of brave fierceness and gentle grace. She was a collector of mysteries: she would ply them and know them, then joyfully dole them out like gifts to her family and friends. She was an explorer and an adventurer. She lived the journey. She loved the journey.
Raised in Chicago and educated at Carlton College and Northwestern University, she ventured west while still in her 20's with her husband Robert H. Wright when the Midwest proved to be too tame. She and Bob loved the wildness of the West. She took the landscapes of Utah - swift rivers, towering mountains, deep sandstone canyons, and most of all her beloved deserts - into her heart and made them her own with a loyalty that could only have been created in the wildfires of the soul. By horseback or by river raft, by jeep, sailboat, or on foot, with family or with friends or even alone, she went about the serious lifetime business of exploring as much of her splendid adopted state as she could grasp.
She raised four children in Utah: daughters who from the beginning carried in them her passion for knowledge, her love of all wild and living things, her longing for the landscapes, her appreciation for diverse lands and peoples, and her compassion for the frailties inherent in the beauty of all these things.
As her children grew older, she studied at the University of Utah in order to obtain an advanced degree in botany. She was a scientist at heart, and pursued her study of cacti with her characteristic arc towards excellence. In doing so, she discovered a previously unrecognized species of cactus that was ultimately named after her. Often in her desert research, she packed in on dirt bikes in order to reach the more remote areas. And so she discovered the path to her second career - that of a motojournalist. She was unfazed by the scarcity of women in that field at the time. Taking demo bikes of all sizes and dispositions in order to write about them for various publications, she made long sweeping motorcycle trips across many corners of this country, often with her children or later her grandchildren in tow. When she got married a second time to James E. Olive, they would ride motorcycles and explore the unknown lands together.
She made the extraordinary seem normal. Her grandchildren grew up thinking it was an everyday adventure to explore the desert in your grandma's sidecar. Traveling with her made you think that every dirt road led to a place of beauty. It was a common outing for the family to comb the meadows of the high Uintas in search of medicinal plants. Admirers of her work would visit from as far away as Germany to learn about the little sclerocactus she discovered and researched throughout the many decades of her life. Even into her late eighties she would drive her beloved desert backroads, often camping alone in search of beauty and solace. Once, when her little truck broke down many miles from any paved roads, to get help she flagged down a train.
In the end she rested quietly at home, in her house with the little forest around it that she had created, with her husband and her sister and her children and her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. They sat at her bedside and held her hand and stroked her hair and sang to her and told her it was okay to let go. At 3:00 am on July 17, 2018 her heart - this heart, which had been so strong and wild and passionate and full of love for ninety years - beat one last time, and was still.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, August 4th, 2018 at 2:00 pm at the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society located at 6876 Highland Drive, Cottonwood Heights, UT, 84121. Everyone is welcome.
To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published by The Salt Lake Tribune on Jul. 28, 2018.
Celebration of Life
South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society
6876 Highland Drive, Cottonwood Heights, UT
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18 Entries
I am so sad to learn of Dorde's passing. She certainly had a great sense of adventure, and a deep dedication to science. Just two years ago, she was roaming a remote part of Idaho near Craters of the Moon to check on a potential new state record for twistspine pricklypear (Opuntia macrorhiza). When she and I discussed her plans for the expedition, I had no idea she was in her late 80s!

Her passing is a loss for the botanical community, and all who knew her.
Lynn Kinter
September 17, 2018
So sorry for your loss. Dorde was a personality that no one could forget.
She wasn't afraid to do or try anything. A true adventurer. I loved the peanut butter and cactus jelly sandwiches she made us. And let us not forget the homemade root beer. She was a shining star in the neighborhood we (Wright's, Thornblads, Hawkes and Richins) grew up in. All who knew and loved her will hold her dear in our hearts.
Susan (Thornblad) Hansen
Susan Hansen
August 8, 2018
a loved one
August 3, 2018
a loved one
August 3, 2018
Knew Dorde years ago when she, Bob and the girls lived in Holladay. Dorde lived a wonderful and full life. She is on to her next adventure. She will be missed.
Barbara Evans
August 2, 2018
What a beautifully written obituary about a beautiful soul whom I unfortunately never met, but feel that I know, now that I have read this. My condolences to her family- what a loss, but what an extraordinary experience to know such a person, and what a joy it must be to know her love, strength and intelligence are your heritage.
Katherine Baker
July 30, 2018
What an absolutely beautiful obituary! I didn't know Dorothea, but through this obituary I feel as though I got a glimpse into this amazing woman, and admire her and her family. God bless you all! Eileen
Eileen Paul
July 30, 2018
I knew Dorde for 15 years and was able to go on several trips with her out in the deserts of Utah and Arizona studying Cacti. Our last trip was just a few years ago! We camped in Spring blizzards on the Kaibab Plateau and West Desert of Utah and hiked in the heat all over Utah. I was amazed by her determination and abilities. She was a great mentor and taught me much about Cacti. She also had great stories to tell of her motorcycle days and trips to see Rock Art. She will be deeply missed.
July 28, 2018
Ariana Wright
July 27, 2018
Ariana Wright
July 27, 2018
Ariana Wright
July 27, 2018
Ariana Wright
July 27, 2018
Ariana Wright
July 27, 2018
Ariana Wright
July 27, 2018
My fondest memories include keeping my grandma Dorde company on camping trips to southern Utah and riding in the side car of her motorcycle. Dorde loved learning about and honoring other cultures and valued the friendships she made over time.

My favorite story about my grandmother is learning how, while on solo motorcycle trips, she would find the most low-key bar in town and head on it just to talk with the locals and learn about their life a little bit.

One thing she liked to do was expose her family to different cuisines of the world - Indian food, Thai food, even Ethiopian food - she knew all the local spots. She was quite the conversationist and showed a genuine interest in all people.

Her husband and my Grandpa Jim has been her loyal companion for many years. Dorde was the mother of four beautiful daughters whom I admire so much, my Aunt Laurel, Aunt Lisa, Aunt Charm and of course my Mom.

My grandmother was one of the most intelligent and brave women I know, and I will miss her terribly. I believe her energy has transitioned to some beautiful place or way of being. I love you, Dorde. Rest in peace.
Ariana Wright
July 27, 2018
I am extending my condolences to the family of Dorothea Woodruff. May the entire family find peace in knowing that God cares for you and will help you during these difficult times. 1 Peter 5:6,7
July 27, 2018
Dorde, what beautiful memories...I will miss you forever. ❤
Mary Jaacks
July 27, 2018
Ariana Wright
July 27, 2018
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