Doratha Mae “Dottie” Mills 76, of Baker City, died May 19, 2005, at her home.

There will be a family service later at Ft. Laramie, Wyo. She will be buried in Wyoming alongside her mother and sister.

She was born on Dec. 19, 1928, at Ft. Laramie, Wyo., to Orville E. and Doratha Knott Mills. She attended high school at Coos Bay and homesteaded at Big Piney, Wyo. She worked as a bartender in Sweet Home.

She had gardening and houseplant skills and loved smelling freshly turned earth ready for planting — anything. Food first if money is tight, then flowers if you can afford them. She always knew just what to grow where and what to fertilize it with and how to talk to it!

She had cooking skills and knew just how to make $5 a day stretch into some pretty good meals. How to look in the cupboard and “see” what to put together.

Where someone else saw a can of soup, she taught her children to make a meal for four. Her children are considered to be pretty good cooks and can set a nice table thanks to the endless hours they spent watching her whip something up.

They say they will never be able to make a sour cream raisin pie like she did, though. They say she was the best cook they ever knew. She knew how to let a cake cool before taking it out of the pan so it wouldn’t just plop out and break apart, how to use seasonings, make “good” gravy, and how to determine what size pan to use. So many little details.

She knew how to hammer a nail or build almost anything from scrap wood. She knew how to fix things or at least knew what was needed to get it fixed, how to prime a water pump (after sliding down a big hill to a creek), coax a carburetor to get enough gas to start, how to jump-start a car, how to drive and be a good driver (a skill her children hope they have passed on to their kids, and especially how to drive a stick shift, even in reverse and into a back porch post, how to paint a wall, put up wallpaper and match the patterns. How to build and stake and keep a warm fire in a tiny little stove using ends of pallet wood.

She taught her family to use what they had and turn it into something else — to be able to look at something and know what it really was made for — but to see all of the other potential uses too.

She taught them to explore the world outside their houses, blocks, towns, cities, and countries. They love to travel and know where it comes from! They have learned years later that canned ravioli isn’t so gross after all! How to fix up a vehicle to camp in (VW bus comes to mind) and how to set up a good camp and what to pack for camping.

They now hear Dave Brubeck playing “Take Five” and always think of her. They would not have an appreciation or true love of good music had their house not been filled with jazz, show tunes, and big band sounds.

Great movies like “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Dr, Zhivago,” or “The King and I” make them think of their mom. They will never forget the thrill she got when she saw Yul Brenner riding away on the back of the cart at the San Diego Zoo and he looked right at her! It was hot that day, but they thought their mom would melt right there in front of the zebras.

She taught them to be kind to all animals, and to always love the companionship and entertainment they provide as well as the trust and unconditional love they reward us with in return.

She also passed on the encouragement to be curious about the past generations of her family, and the love of history and to realize every generation has had its own set of hardships to face and soaring joys to celebrate.
She attempted to instill some type of religious belief. All parents think they are supposed to at least try, but her children are grateful she let them make their own decisions whether to pursue it or go another way. She gave them the right to choose and never forced it upon them.

She also taught them how to hang on for dear life when a horse tries to buck them off and how to get up, dust themselves off and climb back on when hanging on fails. She taught them how to say “thank you.”

She taught them that astrology is really more than just the signs in the sky. She always had a feeling there was more than just a date behind dates. She was a true Sagittarian.

The most important gift she gave her children was their sense of having an independent spirit. The three girls were a fierce threesome for a while, and most of what they know comes from that period of time and has stayed with them the longest. They want their mom to know that they cherish their youthful innocence and rebellion, but now they rely on the things she taught them to really live. They have attained a thriving, mature sense of independence, and a spirit that will not fail them in the most troubling of times.

She was at times their friend, mentor, teacher, opposition, and conscience. Much loved, misunderstood, but theirs.

All of the words created fail to describe their gratefulness to her for all of the good and powerful things she gave them.

Survivors include her four children; 10 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and her longtime companion, Bud Beeson.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society through Coles Funeral Home, 1950 Place St., Baker City, OR 97814.

Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, May 27, 2005
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor