Forty years and counting: One woman’s dedication to teaching


When Dorothy Lee started teaching in 1974, the world was a much different place. Richard Nixon was resigning in the wake of Watergate; high gas prices were spawning the 55 mph speed limit and a hot new electronic device was hitting the shelves — the pocket calculator.

Forty years later, Miss Lee, as she’s lovingly called, is still doing what she does best — instilling compassion and a sense of community in the children she teaches.

The Corpus Christi School instructor will be awarded the Heart of Mercy Award on March 1 at a gala for Oakland’s Mercy Retirement Care Center. For the past 35 years, Miss Lee and her first-graders have been entertaining the residents at the senior community, established by the Sisters of Mercy in 1872.

Nicole Ratto, now a freshman at Gonzaga University, remembers how her class performance of “Twinkle” — the nativity story — helped her develop compassion a dozen years ago.

“Our short performance of ‘Twinkle’ brought radiant smiles to the residents’ faces and laughter that illuminated the whole room,” Ratto says. “That performance for the nursing home, an event carefully planned and led by Miss Lee, was the first step on my journey toward a deeper appreciation for community service and a passion for solidarity with others.”

Looking back, Ratto says Miss Lee showed them that “service nurtures joy, relationships, appreciation, and, most importantly, love.” It’s a sweet message for Valentine’s Day — and a message of hope for the future.

(Sister Patty Creedon and Father Michael Norkett will also be honored at the gala. For more information and tickets, see

Around town: Here’s more on the mural project I mentioned in last week’s column. The Montclair Safety and Improvement Council’s Jill Broadhurst and Josh Shaw are trying to raise $60,000 for the art installation, which will turn the ugly cement abutment on Mountain Boulevard into a rendering of the old Short Line passenger train that once stopped there. The city has approved the project but is kicking in no money for it — so its success is tied to fundraising. All the information is at

Valpak coupon in hand, my husband and I drove to Viva Voce the other night, only to discover it was shuttered.The Thornhill Road cafe was stripped down to the walls, yet another casualty in a location that has seen several restaurants come and go since we moved here in 1988.

Storm totals: February is proving to be our rainy month. Bill Searfus, a Montclarion with a high-tech weather station above Thornhill Nursery, says his rain gauge got 6 inches in last week’s storm, which moved out Sunday night. Searfus shares his weather data with the government as part of the Citizen Weather Observer Program. See his site at

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at or on the web at


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