It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Dolores Tracy, a kind and generous woman who lived a long, adventure-filled life in her own way and on her own terms. Were you to see her in the store or walking her dog in the neighborhood, you would think her only to be a slightly elderly woman puttering about her senior years in contented domesticity — walking the dog or working in the garden — but you would be wrong. This was a passionate, engaged and “ever ready” individual capable of surprising you with her focus, her wit, her energy and her spirit. She was stronger than she looked, fiercer than you could imagine and had the energy of those much, much younger than her years. Her unique way of seeing, and being in, the world challenged our way of thinking, gave us new perspectives and often inspired us to do better and be better people. Her generosity changed our lives for the better and the love she shared with us remains.
Dolores was born in Woodland, Washington, to Gilbert and Esther Jackson and began her life in the lush landscape of the great northwest. It was here, in the green valley of Mount St. Helens that she formed her deep and lifelong love of nature. The family moved to Brisbane, California, when Dolores and her sister were young and she spent her teenage years on the San Francisco Bay. She graduated from Jefferson High School. Shortly thereafter, she fell in love with and married her husband, David Tracy, as he returned from the Korean War. Together, they had two children and raised them for several years in San Francisco. Sadly, some years later they divorced.
Dolores returned to Washington temporarily to be with her family and later moved to Michigan where she went to work as a secretary at Ford Motor Company. There, in Dearborn, Michigan, she built a life for herself and her two young children. While working at Ford, she met her longtime love, Jack Gillespe, with whom she spent nearly 40 years. They eventually moved to Colorado. She often said that there were just not enough mountains in Michigan. While in Colorado, Dolores worked closely with Jack to build an insurance business. She eventually bought a home in Breckenridge, Colorado, that she later ran as a bed and breakfast. During those years, Dolores welcomed people from all over the world to her home and forged many lasting friendships. People would often comment about how gracious and welcoming she was and those who visited from far off places often thought her to be a good representation of the kindness and generosity of Americans. While in Colorado, and after her children had gone off to college or elsewhere to build a life, she often hosted foreign exchange students — many of whom she kept in touch with throughout her life.
When the bed and breakfast began to be too much to manage, Dolores moved farther west and lived for a time in Las Vegas where her daughter Susan resided. Soon however, missing the lush green landscape of her youth, she made her way back home to Woodland. She remained in Woodland, among family and friends, until her death.
Dolores was the loving mother of Susan and Mitch, both of whom preceded her recently in death. Their passing broke Dolores’ spirit and diminished her life in ways we cannot know. Though she forged onward she was, as mothers who lose their children are, never quite the same.
Dolores was among family and friends during her final days. She is survived by her younger sister Gladys Kerr (nee Jackson) of Woodland, her daughter-in-law Donna (MI), her niece (Rhea Bryant), nephew (Roy Kerr) and their extended families, which included many grand-nieces and nephews and even great-grand-nieces and nephews, each of whom hold special memories of Dolores’ influence on their lives.
The details of Dolores’ life, or of anyone’s life, cannot convey the totality of the person she was. She was an eclectic and strong-willed woman who lived life on her own terms. She had a variety of interests and passions and adapted her life often in order to pursue the new and different. She loved to travel and to meet new people. She was an avid gardener and took great pride in her plants. She loved animals, especially yellow labs, and nearly always had an animal companion. She was equally comfortable “roughing it” in the woods and attending the Oregon Symphony (which she did often) in heels and a fancy dress. She loved the beach and went often to renew her sense of balance and to commune with nature. She played the piano, loved Yo Yo Ma, had a deep interest in her ancestry, enjoyed hunting for treasure in unusual shops and markets, would engage a stranger over any topic, was politically active and committed to her causes, etc. She made friends cautiously but once you became her friend, you were friends for life. She was fiercely loyal to and protective of those she held dear.
Hers was a full life, an interesting life, an adventurous life and a life full of love. It was well-lived and she didn’t waste one moment worrying what others might think. We should all follow her example. She would want you to be fulfilled, engaged, present and unafraid. We honor her memory when we choose to live on her terms.
In accordance with her wishes, there will be no funeral. In lieu of flowers for the family, it would make Dolores joyful if you would make a donation to your local animal shelter in her name.
Rest in Peace, Dolores Tracy. You will be missed.