Thursday, February 18, 2010

More Cool Old People Related to You--Gma Dorothy

Dorothy Vivian Cecil Dean was born on 13 December 1903. She died on 9 January 1997.
For a long time I thought her birthday was June 13. She liked strawberry shortcake and decided to celebrate her birthday during strawberry season.

This is how you kids probably remember her....a little white-haired lady that wore a lot of knit dresses...she was only 5'2" tall but she was a dynamic woman who had a hard life and always made the best of it.

She was only 41 when I was born (the same age I was when Kaity was born) I had many many years of "grandmothering" from her...Gma Eck (Gma Janiece's mother) was also 41 when I was born, so you can see why I grew up thinking being a grandmother was a great job...these two women were a big influence in my young life.

Here she is knitting...she was always knitting...she knit herself suits and dresses, wore them for a few years, then unraveled them, washed the yarn, and knit something else. Val and I had a lot of knit coats...and I remember her trying to knit for me as I became a teenager and trying so hard to please me with a very "hip" granny square vest that I tried to wear to make her happy...
But she also took up golf, I think to be companionable to Grampa Earle, and was quite good at it.

She worked for many years as a secretary on the Alameda Air Force base I believe (Val, help me out here if you remember more).

I always remember her with Grampa Earle here in their home on Ascot Drive in the Oakland hills. It was a beautiful place. Always calm and peaceful...a real refuge from the craziness that was usually going on at home.

Grampa Roger was an only child, but Dorothy was pregnant with a little girl that she lost. I think she probably had RH negative blood(at least Roger did) and her second child died because of antibodies formed during her first pregnancy. I'm RH negative, but fortunately, right when Karl was born, they developed a shot they could give you right after delivery that kept you from forming the antibodies...

At any rate, I think she treated me almost like the daughter she never had...we were very close.
This picture is very reminiscent of one of Gma Clara and Gpa Jesse in front of the rock fireplace in their home. I loved visiting my grandparents. Grandma had a little blue and white china dish that she served us our oatmeal in...we were fascinated because if we ate all our oatmeal we could see the picture of Peter Rabbit at the bottom of the dish.
Another attraction for me was the girl, Jackie, who lived next door. She was a couple of years older and had ALL the Nancy Drew books! So the first thing I'd do when I got to Grandma's was go and borrow a few books...Grandma always left me alone to read while I was there. It seemed when we went to Grandma Eck's we always had to help do housework (but then we got to go sew doll clothes and do crafts in her sewing room.)

This is the Ascot Drive home...Grampa Earle loved gardening and the yard was always beautiful. The back of the house looked out over the could see 7 bridges from their picture window.

When Dad and I got married, this is where we spent our honeymoon (cheap and Dad had to take the dental aptitude test in San Francisco that week)...Grandma went and stayed with her sister, Bonnie, down in Willow Glen to vacate the house for us.

Here is the patio set up for a family seems almost every Sunday our family would go to either Grandma Dorothy's (and Grandpa Earle's) for Sunday dinner or to Grandma Della's in Castro Valley.

Dorothy was born in Tingley, Iowa...this is a picture of the house she was born in . Her mother was Edith Reffner, an Iowa farm girl, the youngest of 11 children, and Don Francis Cecil. They married in 1901 and had their three girls, Gladys in 1902, Dorothy in 1903 and Bonnie in 1906. Their son Don Reffner Cecil was born in 1908 in Santa Clara after the family moved out to California.

The family didn't have much...Don Francis called himself an "agriculturist" (meaning he grew prune trees in Santa Clara).
But also (as the family story goes) he
did some detective work for the Pinkertons.

But he had poor health...maybe tuberculosis, and died in 1912, leaving Edith a young widow with four children. I think she basically abandoned the children and left them with her husband's family. She went to Keyes, a farming community down by Turlock in the valley and worked as a cook on a ranch; I think she lived with several men; eventually she married Mark Coppinger and had three more children. Grandma Dorothy considered her mother to be quite scandelous; I think Dorothy's drive to be "proper" had its roots in the insecurity she experienced as a child.

Here is Dorothy as a baby.

Here is Dorothy, age about 4; Bonnie is the baby in the middle, Gladys, about 6 years old on the right.

Grandpa and Grandma Cecil (William Kimball and Bessie Ballou Brown...don't you love the name?) had moved to Berkeley and had a house on Shattuck Ave. They raised the children. This is Grandma Cecil and Bonnie. I love the baby dress and the stroller...Bessie Ballou (Gma Cecil)was quite a formidable woman.

Dorothy did live with her mother in Keyes some of the time. Here she is with long ringlets. The girl on the right was Mavis?Austin. I think her brother married Dorothy's sister, Gladys.

In the orchard at Keyes...but someone told Gma Cecil that the "situation" there (meaning her mother's living arrangements) weren't appropriate for a young girl. so Dorothy came back to Berkeley where she finished school, met Earle and married.

Here is Dorothy in front of the Berkeley house, about the time she met Grandpa Earle. (double click on these small pictures to see them better)

"Spooning" with Grampa Earle...It's good to see her as typical young girl in love. She wasn't always a grandma.

About 1928.

Here are the three sisters...they all married about the same time and each only had one child(which makes me think they all had the RH problem...but I'm just guessing)Hmmm...actually Gladys had another son, Jimmy, who died in WW2.

Grandma Dorothy is in front with Roger, Bonnie is behind her with Donna, and Gladys is on the right with Richard. (Richard's wife, Dorothy, is the one we got our family ice cream recipe from)

Here are the Dean's: Earle, Dorothy and Roger with the Crane's...Earle's sister Thelma and Bill Crane with their daughter, Pat, who became Aunt Pat. She had one daughter, Lynn who was a couple of years younger than me and a couple of years older than Val. She lives in Hawaii.

This is Dorothy and Roger about 1935. I don' t know quite how this happened, but Roger went to live for several months out at some sort of "health camp" out at Del Valle. Val or Jesse, do you know more about this? Dorothy's brother, Don Reffner Cecil lived with them when dad(Roger) was 8 or 9, and I believe he died of tuburculosis. Maybe they worried that Roger might develop it...he was kind of a skinny little kid and I always heard he went out to this camp to "build him up"....they lived a very spartan life, lived in barracks, ate simple food and didn't seem to wear a lot of clothes!
It must have done the trick because dad was pretty healthy after that. We never heard much about this because Grandma was Christian Scientist by this time and didn't like to talk about any illness.

Here's Edith, Gladys, Dorothy (wearing a lacy dress she knit, of course) and Bonnie. (Aunt Bonnie and her daughter are the ones that traveled through the Amazon in the 40's; she also taught me a lot of piano lessons!)


  1. mom, this is awesome and i'm copying the post and putting it on my blog if you don't mind (i want to make sure it's included in my blog book....). Thank you!!! i love this!!!

  2. Thank you so very much for these pictures!!! The Mavis you are speaking of was Mavis Coppinger. She was married to Mark Coppinger, Great Grandma Edith's youngest son. If you would like to contact me I can be reached at