Dorothy Sheahan, beloved mother, grandmother, aunt and friend died August 13th in Jackson, surrounded by family, friends and caring nurses. She was 92. Her family provided the following:
Dorothy was born at the Albertina Kerr Orphanage and Nursery in Portland, Oregon, on Dec. 22, 1922, to a teenage mother, herself an orphan, and an Oregon farm boy new to Portland from Buxton, Oregon. On June 6, 1923, Dottie was adopted by Albert T. and Ruth Doan Case, joining 6-year-old Charles Sessions Case. “It was the happiest day of my life,” Ruth Case said.
The family adopted Katharine “Kitty” Case two years later. The family lived in Hood River, Oregon, Fairhope, Alabama, and San Marino, California.
Dottie attended South Pasadena High School and Chadwick School, where she played on the tennis team and was selected to compete in the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament. She attended the University of Oregon, where she pledged Kappa Alpha Theta and made lifelong friends. During her freshman year she met and fell in love with Richard “Dick” Sheahan, a handsome, extroverted and humorous classmate. When war was declared the following year and Dick enlisted in the Army Air Corps, Dottie returned to California to participate in the war effort. She and Dick were married March 6, 1943.
The young couple settled in San Marino, but after their third child was born they surprised their friends by moving north to Santa Barbara, California. Two more children followed. Dottie joined the Junior League and volunteered for the Children’s Home Society. Always sympathetic to the homeless, she fed itinerant rail travelers who knocked on her door asking for food. In addition to the piano and accordion Dottie learned to play the guitar and joined “The Singing Mums,” a musical group inspired by “The Sound of Music.” Dick and Dottie also acted and danced in the Santa Barbara musical “The Orchid Odyssey.”
The family camped on weekends at state parks or in the Pacific Coast range. In 1960, close friends invited them to camp on their property just south of Grand Teton National Park. In her short story “Wagon Wheels West,” Dottie wrote, “It took me only 24 hours to know the Sheahans must own some of this rare and beautiful property.” She convinced her husband, and they used money they had saved for a special trip to buy a parcel of land and a one-room log cabin without running water or electricity.
In 1962 the family moved to Washington, D.C., driving across the country and encountering one mishap after another. The misadventures inspired Dottie, with Dick’s help, to write two more short stories, “A Helluva Trip” and “JFK’s Sad Saga.”
When the family returned to Ojai, California, in 1964, Dottie began to apply herself to the Kodaly method of teaching music, first finding a teacher in Santa Barbara, and later studying at the Interlochen School of Music in Michigan and at Stanford University. That led to a career teaching music to children in Massachusetts and California.
In 1969 the family moved to Andover, Massachusetts. Dottie made new friends through tennis, bridge, dinner parties, cross-country skiing, book club, PEO and the Boston Symphony Orchestra on Friday afternoons. She earned her Master of Education at Harvard University in 1977. There was one more move to California before she could retire to her beloved Jackson Hole.
Retirement in 1989 to a house north of Teton Village with running water and electricity meant downhill skiing, biking, fly-fishing, tennis, reading and campfire singalongs with children and grandchildren. Dottie and Dick canoe-camped with their family at Leigh Lake well into their 80th year. Friends recall dinner invitations that included a chilly ski or snowmobile ride from the plowed road to the house.
In 1992, Dottie and Dick rediscovered their love letters written during World War II, and from that treasure trove Dottie created a moving memoir of love and war titled “Wild Blue Yonder.” She wrote in the prologue, “Although we had married during the second World War, our marriage was not one of hasty commitment so often described in the media.” That union of love spiced with adventure and humor thrived for 71 years until Dick’s death in 2014.
In the end it is hard to imagine a world without Dottie Sheahan. She touched and brightened so many lives and thus came to the end of her life surrounded by so much love. We will remember willowy and stylish Dottie as a principled, strong, predictable and positive woman who was the anchor through countless moves and challenges.
The Sheahan family would like to thank all the wonderful caregivers at Morning Star Assisted Living, St. John’s Medical Center and the Meno Clinic and the ministers at St. John’s Episcopal Church, all of whom provided so much compassion and care for Dottie. And of course, all were buoyed by the tremendous outpouring of companionship and kindness from longtime valley friends who called and visited Dottie during her last year after her beloved husband passed away.
Dottie is survived by daughters Kathleen (Kemble White) Reid, Susanne (Blake) Wilson, Marnie (Tony) Paulus, Caroline Sheahan and son Casey Sheahan, and her grandchildren Jennifer Paulus (Cleve) Pasarell. Will Paulus, Jim Reid, Caelin Sheahan, Aidan Sheahan and Carson Meyer.
A memorial service was held August 28th at St. John's Episcopal Church. If you wish to make a gift in Dottie’s memory please donate to Grand Teton National Park, the Senior Center of Jackson Hole or St. John’s Episcopal Church. Condolences may be sent to the family through firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior Center of Jackson Hole
830 East Hansen Avenue, Jackson WY 83001
Grand Teton National Park
PO Drawer 170, Moose WY 83012