Ready with warm cookies and a sympathetic ear

Deepa Bharath

Dorothy Smith was everyone's grandma.

Her arms were always open and her gracious heart was always

welcoming -- be it her daughter and her friends or granddaughters and

their friends.

Dorothy's cookie jar was always filled to the brim with fresh

oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies and everyone knew the "routine"

when they walked in the door. They grabbed a cookie, took the glass

of milk she handed to them and sat down to talk.

To Dorothy, the generation gap was as good as a myth. Her favorite

movie was "Pretty Woman." She had no time for old, sentimental

movies. And the kids who came to her home loved that.

She was this cool grandma they never had. She always lent a

sympathetic ear. She never ever judged them. And just one tiny smile

from her and one look at her kind, twinkling eyes was enough to melt

their teenage troubles away.

Even on the phone, the person on the other end could see her

smiling, because they heard the warmth in her voice and felt the love

in her tone of speech.

Dorothy was born in Alhambra, Mont., 86 years ago. Her late

husband was a plasterer. The couple knew each other since they were

children. When they got married, he was 20 and she, 18. The couple

moved to Costa Mesa in 1952 and they stayed married for 50 years.

Dorothy didn't come from money. But she always looked great. Her

nails were done to perfection. So was her hair. She had impeccable


Dorothy and her husband always enjoyed going camping and fishing.

But it wasn't until she was in her 60s that Dorothy actually took up

fishing and started enjoying it. Even as she fished in the wild,

she'd wear lipstick, high heels (she even wore them at home), a

pressed dress -- and a fishing vest on top of that.

Her favorite getaway, however, was Las Vegas. Dorothy loved the

glamour and excitement. She saved her quarters, waited for a chance

to head to the slot machines and relished the possibility of scooping

up the jackpot.

For more than 25 years, Dorothy worked at the Automobile Club of

Southern California as a cashier and later, as a claims adjuster. The

man who was then her boss called Dorothy every year on her birthday,

even 20 years after she had retired.

Despite work, Dorothy always had time for home. She enjoyed to

cook. She made good, old-fashioned American food -- ham, green beans,

candied yams. Her orange-cranberry relish was always a big hit during

the holidays. Never one birthday in the family went by without

Dorothy baking a delicious cake.

Dorothy was also famous in the family for her beautiful crochet

work. All the girls in her family still have and treasure the

gorgeous afghans she made for them.

Dorothy had a penchant for collecting spoons. Anyone in the family

who took a trip to anywhere in the world brought her back a

collectible spoon. She had close to a hundred spoons. She also liked

to visit thrift shops. She occasionally bought lamps or end tables,

but often she would just look at the knickknacks.

She was a good neighbor. She was active in community

organizations, especially those that helped children in need.

As for her family, they always knew where to look when they needed

a few words of encouragement. Dorothy was always honest and never

minced words, but her frankness and straight-talk had positivity,

which was refreshing.

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