Meet Carlton Senior Living’s resident spotlight, Dorothy Benson- Dorothy was born in Philadelphia on April 24, 1927, to Peter and Mary Rusyn. Dorothy is an only child, but both her parents came from large families; her mother and father each had seven siblings. When he was young, her father received a scholarship to become a Greek Orthodox Catholic priest. This allowed him to go to school and get an education. Dorothy took after her father, as she also loves school and learning new things. Dorothy and her father discussed books and music. He always taught her through positive reinforcement, which she still believes in. At a young age he would bring her to big church events where she got to meet church leaders. She took pride in always knowing her prayers.
After high school, Dorothy and her best friend, Carol Stein, made plans to move away from home. As a kid she always wanted to be a scientist and one day go to the moon. Even though she never went to the moon, she did become a scientist. Her and Carol decided to take (and pass!) a four-hour Stanford-Binet IQ test which got them both scholarships. They went to Temple University, in Philadelphia. Dorothy says college was like heaven to her. She got to study science and was given her own microscope. Dorothy says that even though she is older, she is still the smartest person in her family.
Dorothy was married twice. Her first husband, Bill, worked for the U.S. government. He worked on top secret jobs that Dorothy still does not know about. Together they had three children: Rosemary, who just retired from a financial analyst position, Bill, who is a doctor with Sutter, and Ned, who works for the EPA overseeing a territory from Guam to California. Dorothy has eight grandchildren.
Dorothy’s second husband, Don, was a mathematician. Dorothy describes him as “brilliant.” Don passed away in May. They were married for 49 years. Early in their relationship, Dorothy decided to prove herself to Don by going on a backpacking trip in the mountains with him. They really roughed it and slept on the ground with the snakes and bugs. Backpacking, camping, and hiking became a pastime for the two during their marriage. Occasionally, when Dorothy and Don saved up enough money, they would ditch the mountains for a cruise. This was their way of splurging and treating themselves. Dorothy still loves walking and relishes many fond memories of hiking and camping with Don.
One of her favorite life experiences was hiking Mount Denali in Alaska. She and Don camped on the shore of Wonder Lake, at Denali’s base, in a two-person pup tent. The tent was tiny; you had to get very close to the person you shared the tent with. She has vivid memories of needing to tilt her head all the way back to see the whole mountain, which was huge and always covered in snow.
When she was still with Bill, Dorothy served in U.S. Navy as a Cadet Nurse for about five years. She later taught English at community colleges. She taught remedial courses and helped students with writing and composition. Dorothy thinks a teacher should be a person who wants to help young people get ahead and she believes she was able to help the most in the community college system. She really respected that most of her students were working hard to pay for school on their own. Dorothy still loves school. She and Don attended classes together even after he was diagnosed with dementia. She continues to attend class twice a week. She likes being able to talk to people who have a similar interest in learning new things.
Dorothy also enjoys art and volunteered as a tour guide at the Legion of Honor and the De Young Museum in San Francisco. She creates her own art with various metals and woods. This type of art is called Objet Trouvé (found object) or, as she jokingly calls it, “junk.” She believes you can make art out of anything. Dorothy used to collect old pieces of cars and turn them into art.
Dorothy believes in living optimistically and using your brain and intellect to stay happy. She champions the working mother. For many years she was a single mother and had to really work hard to support her family. She would like to be remembered as someone who loves to learn and help people. Dorothy wants people to know that life is good, but you must do a little to make it good.
Here at Carlton, Dorothy enjoys Family Feud and word games. She likes classical music, Paul Simon, The Beach Boys, and music from the sixties. She is not a big movie watcher but does enjoy a good documentary. At Carlton she found her new favorite dessert, espresso chip ice cream. She loves all food, and even though she can’t eat gluten she appreciates that she is able to have a full diet here. Given that Dorothy spent so much time in the woods it’s no surprise her favorite scent is the smell of the redwoods and forest.
Dorothy describes herself as nutty and chatty. She most admires her father, as he was a marvelous dad who prepared her to be ready for any situation. Dorothy says she really likes it at Carlton, and that she does not like to complain. However, she finds that “you have to complain a little to fit in,” so she complains about the broccoli. Her favorite thing about life at Carlton is the ability to come downstairs and have a cup of coffee and good conversation.
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Written by Ben Slade, Resident Liaison at Carlton Senior Living Davis