Following a short illness, Dorothy Louise Gadberry Irwin Hemphill passed away in her home at Princeton Windrows on Saturday, January 28, 2017, at the age of 100 years and five months. She was attended by her daughter, Joyce Irwin, and son, Galen Irwin.
Dorothy Gadberry was born in Carthage, Mo., on August 26, 1916, the daughter of William and Ethel Gadberry. During elementary school, a teacher discovered Dorothy's talent for public performance. She was given elocution lessons and performed for various local civic groups. During high school, she was active in the drama society and graduated in 1934 as co-valedictorian of her class.
Dorothy would have liked to become a minister, but this career was not open to women, so she chose teaching and attended Kansas State Teachers College in Pittsburg, Kan. She was again active in drama and it was during one production that she met her future husband, Arnold Irwin. Upon receiving a two-year teaching certificate she taught for one year at the Lone Star School, one-room schoolhouse in rural Missouri.
In June 1937, she married Arnold Irwin and they moved to Joplin, Mo., where he was teaching secondary school. Two children, Galen and Joyce, were born to this union. In 1954, Arnold became ill with lymphatic cancer and Dorothy returned to school, completing her bachelor in education in 1958. She then began teaching in the Joplin Public Schools.
Upon the death of Arnold in 1959, she became the first woman to serve on the Joplin City Council, finishing out Arnold's term. However, politics was not her passion and she did not choose to run for re-election. She directed her talents to other civic activities, serving, for example, as the president of the Joplin Teachers Association. In 1970, she received a Master's degree in Elementary Counseling and Guidance from Southwest Missouri State College in Springfield, Mo., and began serving as an elementary counselor, first in Joplin, and later in Carthage.
In 1973, she met and married Morris Dean Hemphill of Leann, Mo., and Corona, Calif. In 1974, they invited all of their children to their farm to unite them into a single family. Since then, all have been treated equally and have functioned as a single family unit, demonstrating that it is not necessarily blood that defines a family, but the love that all have for one another.
With Morris, Dorothy moved to Carthage where, in addition to her employment in the school system, she was active in civic groups, helping to organize Crisis Intervention, serving on the Board of the United Way, and helping with Crosslines and the Friends of the Library.
She also revived her interest in speech and drama, giving book reviews and speaking to various groups. She was active in the Joplin Little Theater and the Stone's Throw Theater of Carthage, performing often in leading roles until close to 80 years old.
Dorothy was a woman of strong faith and an active church member, serving variously as Sunday School teacher, board member, committee member, and elder. She was a member of the Missouri State Teachers Association, Delta Kappa Gamma, and PEO.
Morris Hemphill passed away in 1994 and in 1996, Dorothy moved to Oneida, N.Y., to be near her daughter, Joyce. She was immediately welcomed by Joyce's step-children, Debby, Brian, and Lisa Smith, and their children, all of whom became part of her loving extended family. In 2000, Joyce and Dorothy moved to DeWitt, N.Y., and in 2012 to Princeton, N.J.
In August 2016, Dorothy celebrated her 100th birthday. Almost all of her extended family was in attendance in a two-day event at Princeton Windrows and a local hotel. She was presented with a book of her reminiscences of her 100 years.
She is survived by her daughters, Janice Verity, of Los Osos, Calif., Sandra Hunt, of San Francisco, Calif., Joyce Irwin, of Princeton, and Letitia Garrison, of Riverside, Calif.; and son, Galen Irwin, of Wassenaar, the Netherlands, as well as nine grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren.
Services to celebrate her life will be held at Plainsboro Presbyterian Church, 500 Plainsboro Rd., Plainsboro Township, NJ, 08536, at 1 p.m. on Monday, February 20. Her ashes will later be buried in Ozark Memorial Cemetery in Joplin.
A generous supporter of a wide variety of charitable organizations, Dorothy could be appropriately remembered through a contribution to your preferred charity, or to the Plainsboro Presbyterian Church, or to Doctors Without Borders, https://donate.doctorswithoutborders.org.
Published on February 8, 2017