Dorothy Louise Smith

Dorothy Louise was born to Leslie R. Pierce and Mary Smith Pierce on September 19, 1924 at her grandparents’ farm in rural Upland, Kansas. She had two older sisters, Kate and Irene. Four years later brother Bob was born. Upland was a town of about 30 residents and Dorothy or “Dot” as she was called, was well known to all. She and her best friend Teddy got into lots of mischief. They were known for painting the neighbor’s new blue car with yellow paint, filling another neighbor lady’s new wringer washer with dirt, adding water and turning it on to mix up for mud pies. The local shop keeper also kept a close eye on them, as they were likely to grab the end of the string used for tying packages and pull it as far as they could through their little town.
When Dorothy was about 15 her parents divorced so she and her brother moved with her dad to Chapman, Kansas. She attended high school there and was a cheerleader. At that same time her mother opened her own restaurant called Mary’s Place in Junction City, Ks. Mary passed her love for baking onto her daughter and many of Dorothy’s favorite recipes are from her mother.
After graduation Dorothy took a job at the local army base, Ft Riley. It was there she met the recent ROTC graduate, First Lieutenant Jack Sterling Smith. Dorothy was working at the ice cream counter, and he ordered a chocolate milkshake. It wasn’t long before he was escorting Dorothy home every night on the bus. They met in February and in September they took the train back to Michigan. Jack and Dorothy were married in Lansing on Dorothy’s 20th birthday (he refused to marry a teenager) and they celebrated 54 years of marriage. They returned to Junction City/Ft Riley for 5 months before he shipped out for the Philippines. At Jack’s insistence Dorothy returned to Lansing to live with his parents, Art and Lola, and enrolled at Michigan State and took a job at Knapps Department Store. But it wasn’t long before she became homesick and returned to Kansas to be with her family.
It was understood that when Jack returned from deployment and was discharged from the Army they would return to Michigan and live in Sunfield. Jack’s life’s desire was to take over his great grandparent’s (David and Sarah Shaffer) farm on Round Lake Rd. Dorothy had decided early in life that she would NEVER marry a farmer but here she was married to the man of her dreams living on a farm. She took on the role. Jack’s mother taught her to drive a car (unusual for a woman in those days) also got her started in her pie making. She had a coop full of chickens to take care of (locked herself in the coop one day and her neighbor Harold Bishop heard her yelling and came to her rescue), learned to churn butter, butcher chickens, drive a tractor and help with all other farm chores. Dorothy did acclimate to Sunfield and made many friends. She was so pleased to be chosen as Grand Marshal in 2004.
After Dorothy and Jack had been married for about five years their first child, Jacqueline, was born. Two years later Raymond arrived and four years later Phillip came along. Dorothy combined her farm responsibilities with parenting. When the babies arrived, Dorothy says she felt complete and stopped missing Kansas so much.
In the early 50s Jack and Dorothy accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and became devoted members of the Sunfield Methodist Church. They both served in multiple positions for over 50 years. Dorothy enjoyed singing in the choir that Jack directed.
Jack was always one for prank or practical joke-sometimes Dorothy was the target but more often she was the accomplice as he told a joke, wore a wig, delivered presents anonymously to his grandchildren or jogged around their house shaking sleigh bells on Christmas Eve.
Around 1955 the family moved to a farm on Sunfield Rd. For the next 20 years Dorothy’s life was very busy. Jack and Dorothy built a hen house which housed nearly 1000 birds, which meant she had an egg business to run. Eggs were sent to the Lansing Farmers Market and also traded to Elliott’s IGA.
She was always willing to work outside on the farm, often driving a tractor, running for parts, or delivering a meal to the fields.
Her sons tell a story about her wrangling an angry mother pig and winning. She was a 4H leader, scout leader, Sunday School teacher, Farm Bureau member, and a sports mom. She and Jack both worked with Theo Lenon at the Sunfield elevator and he became one of their dearest friends. Later she went to work in Lansing at Knapps again. In 1969 she went to work for Ray and Ethlyn Elliott and worked there for about 8 years.
In 1978 Dorothy became very ill and was near death at one point. It took until 1980 to diagnose her with Lupus. The doctor who finally diagnosed her illness was Dr. Richard Pittsley and she was still under his care when she passed away. Dorothy stated many times that without his 45yrs of supervision she would not have lived such a long life. Jack and Dorothy owned a few different campers and traveled to Arizona in 1978 to volunteer at an Indian Mission. They were well loved there and always wanted to return. As grandchildren came along there were several trips to Strawberry Lake and Scottsville.
After Jack’s death in 1997 Dorothy needed something new to do. Her first idea was to volunteer at the local elementary school as a reading mentor. Being there also gave her a chance to be near her youngest grandchildren. Most days they came home to her house after school. One day Dorothy walked into the local Sunfield Diner and asked for a job. She was hired and that’s where she became known to many as the “pie lady.” About this time, it became evident that her hearing loss was getting worse due to a birth defect- no hearing aid was going to be able to fix it. Dorothy’s hearing loss became a major contributor to her aging and caused her and her family great emotional distress.
When the restaurant closed Dorothy continued making pies, often taking special requests from as far away as Lansing. Many times a visit to the doctor also included the delivery of a pie. Dorothy was willing to share her pie making skill-often giving lessons to her younger friends. A few weekends were spent helping Great Granddaughter Brayden make 75 homemade apple pies that were sold for a fundraiser. So now the skill lives on in Brayden!
Dorothy also spent a lot of hours with a crochet hook in her hands. There were many afghans created and a baby blanket made for any baby she knew was on the way. There are even a few made in advance for future generations. And many of us have crocheted angels for the top of our Christmas tree. Dorothy was an avid reader and always had a pile of future reads stacked up beside her chair. She was always the first in line for a new Karen Kingsbury or a Danielle Steele book at the Sunfield District Library.
When Dorothy had the opportunity to start volunteering and cooking at the Hospice House in Charlotte (now known as Eaton Community Palliative Care) it changed her life. Dorothy had always been known as Mrs. Jack Smith but now she was known as Miss Dorothy from Hospice. It was the fulfillment she needed. She found another purpose for her life. She could extend her love to all she encountered there. She made many friends among the other volunteers and offered comfort to patients with her homemade meals. And in some way it prepared her and her family for the reality of dying. It was a great relief and comfort to her and her family to have her cared for by her friends at Eaton Community Palliative Care as she waited for her earthly departure.
Besides being very hard-working Dorothy was a caring, kind, forgiving, and loving person. She tried very hard to follow what she learned from her Bible. She took great joy from her family, Jackie and Ken Carr, Ray Smith, and Phil Smith. Grandchildren Kendra, Sara, Amanda, Brandy, Jeff, and Marlena. Dorothy made a great effort to teach her grandchildren and great grandchildren about Jack, sharing letters, stories, and pictures with many of them. And she was always ready to encourage them to have a relationship with Jesus. Her great-grandchildren are Brayden (whose birth she attended), Lainey, Carrson, Grant, Noah Jack, Nevaeh, Eliott, Jeremiah, Eva, Remy, and River. She looked forward to Jeff and Dana bringing River for her daily visit.
At 98 years old Dorothy had seen the passing of many of her dearest friends but shared many happy times and conversations with friends Nancy Harms, Lee Martz, Jan Wilford, Sandy Rebec, and caregiver Verna Hough.
Words from Dorothy: “When i became a Christian I was given eternal life. When you are healthy this doesn’t seem important but when you feel death is near it becomes very important. I found a peace that non-Christians do not have. I have a joy because I know Jesus. I have no fear of death. I will be with God!”
Per Dorothy’s directions, a Celebration of her life, led by grandson-in-law, Josh Good, and nephew, Karl Schad, will be held at the family farm on July 14, 2023. A time for greeting and visitation will begin at 1 p.m., service at 2 p.m., and in true Dorothy hospitality, pie and ice cream will be served following the service.
Those desiring to honor Dorothy may make donations to Eaton Community Palliative Care, Sunfield District Library or the Welch Museum.