Skip to main content

Lives Lived, Dorothy Dalton

Wife, mother, fashionista, creator of crafts. Born May 8, 1919, in Halifax, died July 12, 2013, in Aurora, Ont., of natural causes, aged 94.

Dorothy Jackson was the eldest daughter of eight children in her family, and was considered the most beautiful – an Olivia de Havilland lookalike. Their home was poor but happy until tragedy struck when Dorothy was a teen: Her father died, and shortly afterward her mother left the family for New York.

The older girls and boys had to quit school and go to work, as well as tend to the younger ones, including Kenny who was only 2. The girls were sad to leave school. They were very bright and highly motivated. Eventually their mom returned, too late for some, who had emotional scars that never healed.

Story continues below advertisement

But not Dorothy: She was always looking forward, showing a lifelong ability to pause, take a deep breath and carry on, sometimes a bit shakily.

She married Dick Dalton, a dashing naval officer stationed in Halifax doing Atlantic patrols during the Second World War. After the war, they began a peripatetic lifestyle, living all over Canada – wherever Dick found work.

Two children, Wayne and Donna, were born. Dorothy loved the role of mother. It felt a natural fit, partly because she had already done it. "Parenting is like gardening," she was fond of saying: "Don't over-weed or you will throw out the good with the bad."

During successive moves, some more fun than others, Dorothy shone. Despite fighting chronic depression, she set up a support network by immediately joining newcomers' groups wherever she moved. This introduced her to her beloved bridge playing, among many other activities.

Eventually, they moved to Vancouver, where Dorothy felt at home. The Atlantic had nurtured her, and now the Pacific allowed her to blossom joyfully. Her daughter, Donna, was living there, and Dorothy became a proud grandma to Cindy and Kim.

Sadly, Dick passed away from a stroke in Vancouver. Dorothy received support from her sister Emily and brother-in-law Jim during this time. But eventually she came into her own there, discovering her own creativity. No "found object" was safe from her gaze. Her crafts will be treasured for generations.

She also gave back to the community, volunteering for Lions Gate Hospital and various thrift shops, of which she became a devotee and quite the fashionista. She would lay out some new treasure and say: "Look at this – this is at least 200 years old, you know." That was the standard age, no matter what the object. Her eagle eye could spot bling at 600 yards.

Story continues below advertisement

In Vancouver, Dorothy formed her closest friendships. She and her gal pals shared a love of the ocean and every day could be found walking the sea wall in West Vancouver, rain or shine. Those were her glory days.

About eight years ago, Dorothy moved to Richmond Hill, Ont., to be close to Donna again. Five years ago she moved into an Aurora nursing home, not happily. But on her first morning there, she already had residents in a line and was combing their hair before breakfast.

She kept busy with crafts, and would make Christmas trees from corks and decorate them by hand. She gave them to every resident who had no visitors at Christmas.

She never forgot her Atlantic beginnings – she was sensitive to the loneliness of others.

Maureen Steuart is Dorothy's niece.

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨