Under Angel Wings


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Happy 96th Birthday, Aunt Dorothy

My father's sister, Dorothy, was born 96 years ago today, May 12, 1913, on Jenkins Farms in northern California. She lives there now, within eyesight of the 450 year old blue oak tree that sheltered the old homestead where she was born.  

My mother's father, Dr. Higgins, delivered her, his first baby case, a fact that he always enjoyed pointing out to people whenever Aunt Dorothy returned home from college, or came back to visit as a married woman.

Dorothy grew up on the farm with her father and mother, C.W. and Minnie, and older brothers Bruce and Raymond. Her father had studied agriculture in college, and both of her parents had taught school, so everything on the farm was made educational and fun.

She learned everything about trees: fruit trees, conifers and deciduous trees, grafting and budding, and how to run a dry yard to process the dried peaches. There were horses and cows, pigs and chickens, and family pets to care for.

Dorothy was encouraged to work and play outside whenever possible, so that she would grow up in the healthy out doors. She and her brothers walked or rode in their pony cart every day to the small country school nearby. The fourth generation of our family, Elizabeth, is now attending the same school!

Every vacation growing up was a camping trip to some area around California. Trees and plants, geology and geography, hiking and studying maps were taught by their parents. One of Dorothy's fondest memories is climbing North Butte in our valley for the first time, when she was about 11 years old. Each spring the family took turns climbing North and South Butte with family and friends. In later years Dorothy climbed both Mt. Lassen and Mt. Whitney with her husband.

As Dorothy grew older, she helped her mother start a candied fruit business where their produce was prepared and packed in special redwood boxes under the Greenwood Tree Ranch label. This operation brought in much needed funds to help send Dorothy to college.

When that time came, a friend encouraged her to apply to the University of California at Berkeley. Her parents put her on the train that runs by the farm, and when she reached the Bay Area, she jumped off in Berkeley and they threw her suitcase down after her. While at Cal she studied Botany and Geography, two life-long interests to this day. She graduated in 1935.

Dorothy met the love of her life, Ronald Ross, when she accepted a blind date for a dance at Bowles Hall. They courted, and married on Sept. 19, 1937 in her family's church, with a reception at home. This was during the time of the Great Depression, when jobs were very scarce. Ronny had a difficult time finding a job, but friends eventually helped him secure a position with Bank of America.

Dorothy in the living room of the old homestead, circa 1930

Dorothy last year at Easter time on Jenkins Farms

Ron was assigned to a bank in San Diego where he worked in financing world-wide transportation such as airlines, steamships and railroads. Ron and Dorothy started their family which consists of three sons: Rob, Ron Jr. and Richard. They raised their sons in much the same way they had been raised~camping and hiking, with family trips all over the U.S.

Twenty years later Ron was transferred to San Marino, in the L.A. area, where he continued his career in B. of A. By this time Ron and
Dorothy were flying to different countries, often connected to Ronny's business trips financing the airlines and other concerns. They visited all over Europe, Egypt, the Holy Land, Russia, China, Indonesia, Central America and Canada. Dorothy often did family genealogy research on these trips where applicable.

Along the way Dorothy was active with her sons in Boy Scouts, taking the boys on nature study trips. She worked with the Huntington Library in San Marino, doing oral family history interviews with people whose families had lived at the San Gabriel Mission. She led bicycle tours of the city and served on many committees.

During the summers Dorothy always brought her sons north to spend the entire vacation on the family farm. There they were kept very busy learning how to work on the old farm house, repairing and doing projects. They also worked in the peaches and the prunes, learning the farming operation from their Uncle Bruce and Uncle Raymond.

In 1980, Ron retired from Bank of America, and Ron and Dorothy moved north to build a beautiful new home where the old farmhouse once stood. They poured their time and energy into creating a showplace of lovely grounds combined with interesting antique farm implements. In the kitchen of their home, mostly for display, is the old wood cook stove that Dorothy's mother, Minnie, once cooked on to feed her family and the ranch hands.  

Over the course of her very active life, Aunt Dorothy has always been a writer. She has written many booklets for the family concerning our genealogy and history. In this last decade she has written and published two books, Jenkins Farms, and Under the Blue Oak, a story of all the peoples who have lived under the historic blue oak where she was born. Both books are sold at the local county museum.

Tomorrow I will share what a wonderful influence Aunt Dorothy has been in my life. Today's posting is but a brief view into an incredible woman's life that has spanned almost a hundred years. Happy 96th birthday, Aunt Dorothy!

Thank you, Cousin Rich, for the photos.

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