BIO Index

Dottie Wheeler


Hmmmm, where to start? After graduating high school I worked locally in Sarasota in a few places... a law office as office manager, Maas Brothers for Christmas season, until I met Dave Mitchell, a local man 9 years my senior. Never was attracted to the immature guys my own age so Dave was a refreshing change. We dated for a few months and were married in August of 1963. Our honeymoon was a prolonged road trip from Florida to northern Canada and back. Great fun. We camped most of the way.

Eventually we moved up to Gainesville where Dave continued his college education in electrical engineering. I got a job in the Dean's office of the college of Pharmacy at the University of Florida. For someone who was pretty shy and retiring, being in a "glass fishbowl" (the front office) was a bit unnerving but I liked the job and the college atmosphere.

After Dave got his bachelor's degree, and I got my PHT (Pushing Hubby Through), we decided it was time to start earning a living, although the idea of a graduate degree was bantered around for a while. It was a tossup with job offers from the Denver area or Seattle. Boeing won and we moved across the country to Washington State. The trip was leisurely and full of happy memories.

The big layoff at Boeing caught us and Dave began work with a small electronics firm that specialized in traffic control equipment. Being a workaholic, Dave moonlighted designing and producing specialty equipment and, being the dutiful wife, I assisted with assembly work in our basement.

By this time we had added two boys to our family...Doug, who now lives in Grosslangenfeld, Germany with his wife Anita. They live on a property that has been in her family for over 300 years and are renovating it to turn it into a hostel someday. Dan, four years younger than Doug, played football for the Oregon Ducks under Rich Brooks. He and his wife, Jennifer, live in Ridgefield, WA with their two sons, Tyler and Conner.

But I'm getting ahead of myself! During my marriage to Dave we took very few vacations. Business always seemed to take precedence over family. In 1977 my grandmother came to live with us and I spent a lot of time at home taking care of her and raising the boys. I did volunteer work at the elementary school library and then at Hazen High School where the boys attended. Lots of football, basketball and soccer games and chauffeuring all Dan's buddies in our old van. Both the boys skied so there were many trips to the mountains, again with a car full of energetic young men.

We belonged to an outdoor group called the Washington Alpine Club and spent a lot of time in a lodge at Snoqualmie Pass, year round, as we both skied and backpacked. I love the outdoors still although my fake knees now make long hikes out of the question. My mother-in-law was a real traveler and she often included myself and the boys in her wanderings. We had many adventures throughout the United States. Nothing like traveling with two young boys! Edna, in the meantime, was working on broadening my horizons and invited me to join a national philanthropic organization for women. Shy, retiring me actually stood in front of group of over 250 women to lead the opening ceremonies for an annual convention!

In 1990 I began to address a question that had plagued me most of my life. I had joined a handbell choir and found myself immensely attracted to one of the new ringers....and she was female. To make a long story a bit shorter, she and her partner helped me to "come out". Obviously I could no longer stay married as that wouldn't have been fair to either Dave or myself, so in 1992 we divorced. We are still friends and correspond pretty regularly. He even took me to dinner one evening to ask me about a woman he eventually married.

My life took an abrupt turn... from a warm, safe family environment to one of insecurity, physical, mental and financial. I went back to school and got a certificate in surgical technology. I worked at Providence Hospital in Everett, WA for almost 7 years as a surgical tech. The work was fascinating and I loved it. I was with my first partner, a nurse, for 6 years. When her son died of AIDS, she changed radically and our relationship came to an end. I had moved from Seattle to Everett to be closer to my work and had my own little home. I belonged to an online group who happened to be having a get together in Sequim and I decided to go. Another segue to the "bash" as it was called and I met my current partner of almost 13 years, Molly. She is an online biology instructor for Keiser College in Florida.

We were married when Oregon allowed it but a year later the powers that be sent us back our license fee and told us we were no longer married. So we did the next best thing and became "domestic partners" under Oregon's law. Our marriage license is in a frame, now covered by our partnership agreement...awaiting the next chapter in our fight for legal equality. Who knows how many more pieces of paper will be added to that little frame!

So now we live in Albany, Oregon, where Molly still teaches online, with students all over the world. I work at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center where I am the switchboard operator for the 188 bed hospital. I am affectionately known as the "Grandmother of the Hospital" by the volunteer groups who bring 1st graders there on tour.

However, this is all about to change as I will be retiring April 30th...and so will Molly. "Lord willing and the creek don't rise", as Tennessee Ernie Ford used to say, we will spend the rest of our lives together doing what we both love. Gardening, biking, playing games, both computerized and not. Molly is a terrific cook and we have both put on some extra pounds in our years together. Just joined a gym with thoughts of getting back into better shape so perhaps, I won't be quite so "matronly" when we reunite in May! But, if not, I am happy and that is what counts.

Dottie Wheeler Mitchell