A Son’s Tribute to His Mom’s Story (and History)

We all could say something nice or special about our moms, and I’m no exception. What makes my mom amazing and notable is the way she lives her life. But before I tell you about her life today, you need to know where she has been.

Photo of Dorothy Isgrig circa 1932Dorothy Elizabeth Isgrig was born in 1926 in Montgomery City, Missouri, the first of three children born to her parents Frederick William Isgrig and his third wife Stella Moore Yates Nalley. She also had 12 older half brothers and sisters, as her parents already had several children between the two. The Great Depression was in full swing when my mom was little, and she can remember getting her Christmas toys from the Salvation Army. From the ages of 2 to 9 she lived in Kansas, and then she returned to Missouri in a Ford Model T or Model A, driven by her brother-in-law. In 1936, her first year back in Missouri, my mom and her immediate family lived in a shack that had previously been occupied by hired hands of a local farmer. My mom went on to get her eighth-grade diploma at Jesse School house two miles west of Mexico. She walked over five blocks every day to be picked up by her teacher to be taken to school.

Photo of one-room school houseOn Easter Sunday this year, my mom and other family members went to see the one-room Beagles schoolhouse in Audrain County, now a community center, that mom attended. On that same trip we drove by where my mom’s other school, Erisman, once stood. She attended there four years. We then went on to the Presbyterian Church where she was “sprinkled” as a teenager. While on the road, my mom began to tell me even more details about her childhood – teachers’ names, schoolmates and stories from her younger days. I said, “Mom, I can’t write this stuff down while I’m driving!” Soon after our excursion, we sat on the couch, and I wrote down everything I could remember her telling me. She had never spoken about these details before. There is something about “going home” that jogs the memory.

Photo of Dorothy Isgrig age 16We didn’t have much growing up, and my mom didn’t either. She grew up during the Great Depression when there was no work to be had. When she was a young teenager she peeled apples for ladies who made pies. At 16 she got a job at the Crown Laundry and continued that until she had her first child. Women could get work then because so many men were in the service.

Dorothy married my father, Raymond Lee Dollens, in April of 1947, just less than four months shy of her twenty-first birthday. Two days shy of their first wedding anniversary they became the parents of their first child, Ruth Ann. A baby would follow almost every year after that until they had their fourteenth child (me) in December of 1964. So all of us kids are baby boomers. We could be a sociological project! My Mom now has 35 grandchildren and 35 great grandchildren, with two more great grandchildren on the way.

Raising a large family is much like army life. Order, discipline and pecking order are all in play. If I told you I didn’t have an opinion until I was an adult on my own, you might not believe me, but it is TRUE. I had more peer pressure from my siblings than I ever had from kids I knew from church or school. My mom pretty much followed the same routine every day to keep the household running. She still washes the dishes with my older sister every day.

Photo of Dorothy Isgrig Dollens todayWhat makes my mom amazing is that things she does today should inspire anyone of the baby boom generation or older. First, she keeps a regular schedule. She walks up to two miles a day, five to six days a week like clockwork. She goes to her doctor regularly and actually follows through with her diet plan. Oh, she will tell you that she gained 30 pounds with her first baby and has never been able to lose them, but that doesn’t keep her from maintaining her diabetes. She became a diabetic at the age of 79, and up until the age of 87 she maintained it with diet and exercise alone. Talk about discipline. She now has to take a pill to help regulate her diabetes. How many octogenarians can say that? Her lifestyle is what makes her the strong person she is.

Most of my mom’s contemporaries are deceased, including all of her siblings and most of her in-laws. Her friends now are her children and their families. She does enjoy the babies. She loves to hold the babies and talk to the toddlers. I am so very thankful that at the age of 87 my mom is as alert, mobile, social and healthy as a person of her age can be.

So now you know why my mom is special. Why is your mom special? Whatever the reason, make sure you let her know this Mother’s Day!

About Tim

Tim is the past president of the Genealogical Society of Central Missouri and teaches genealogy help classes at the library on a regular basis.
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