One might have a certain idea about who Dorothy H. Slemmons was knowing some of her talents, treasures and tastes: Musically trained at Juilliard in New York City; an opera singer applauded for her leading roles in regional productions of “Carmen” and “Fair Helen” and featured on radio in the ‘40s and ‘50s; an authority on diction; a woman proud of her well-researched English heritage; a lover of lovely things like Waterford, Wedgewood and Crabtree & Evelyn’s Damask Rose; a connoisseur of English trifle and the occasional martini (but only if her husband ordered one first); a well-read and intellectual mother who taught her children the first, as well as last, names of classical composers.
But the girl born Dorothy Virginia Herrick (“Dede” to friends and family), whose beautiful voice, infectious laugh and gentle soul blessed so many people throughout her 96 years of life, was so much more than that. Dorothy was a Kansas girl who fell in love with a Nebraska boy at the Jenkins Music Store in Kansas City where she worked in 1942. Robert ‘Bob’ Slemmons was buying music for another girl … until he saw Dorothy. She was the “music” the Big Band brass musician and Navy enlistee had dreamed of. She was a woman who would come to love so many things in life: Sunday dinners with family, crossword and jigsaw puzzles, afternoon naps, hand-written ‘thank you’ notes, peonies, travel, her home garden, singing in her church choir, the Kansas City Royals, Spanish-influenced architecture and décor, and sweets of any kind … fine and not so fine. She was a woman who would say, “Yes, I’ll marry you,” when her love returned from World War II and who would pull a wedding together in one week (their wartime correspondence is an epic romance in itself!). She was a woman who would grow closer to God after losing their first-born son, David, when he was 12 to a brain tumor. She was a woman who would give life to four more children and devote her life to making sure each felt loved, adored and treasured. She was a woman who would find the strength to nurture Bob, that music-loving seaman turned husband/war veteran/architect/musician/man of God, to full health following his own battle with a brain tumor many years later.
Dorothy Herrick Slemmons died Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, at Brewster Place, where she made her home for more than 22 years. She began life on November 29, 1921, in Argentine, Kan., born to her parents, Arthur Atherton Herrick and Ethel Virginia Wiscoskie Herrick. Dorothy graduated from Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, N.J. in 1940, then attended The Juilliard School in New York City before returning to Kansas with her family at the commencement of the Second World War.
After marrying in Topeka in December 1945, Dorothy and Bob moved to Lincoln, Neb., where he completed his architecture degree, and she continued her music studies. In 1948, they returned to Topeka when Bob accepted a position with the State of Kansas, and Dorothy became contralto soloist in the choir at First Presbyterian Church, where she continued as an active member for the remainder of her life. Though she was essentially a private person, Dorothy made lasting friendships at church and in a variety of social organizations, including PEO, Three Arts Club, Minerva Club and the St. Andrews Society. Her volunteer work included helping to establish a daycare program at the Topeka Rescue Mission and tutoring to help adults achieve literacy through The Literacy Project. A frequent soloist enlisted to sing for area funerals, her musical gifts lent spiritual comfort to countless grieving families over the years.
In Dorothy’s last decade of life, the 10 years she lived without her beloved husband, visiting children and grandchildren often asked, “How are you, Grandma?” Her standard response was, “Better now.” That is who Dorothy was, and is forever more, to everyone who loved her.
Dorothy is survived by her sister, Martha J. Herrick, and by her children: Claire Forster (Bob); Jennifer Kuner (Rev. Dr. Mike Kuner), Rob Slemmons (Julie DeVoe), and the Rev. Dr. Tim Slemmons (Victoria). In addition to her surviving children, Dorothy is survived by grandchildren Drew Forster (Trenna), David Forster (Tabitha), Bret Forster (Michelle), Kim Mason (Jack), Claire Kuner, Emma Kuner Rohr (Tanner), Dillon DeVoe (Pennie Webb), Alexandra DeVoe, Zoe Slemmons, Andreea Slemmons, Lily Slemmons and Leah Slemmons, in addition to 7 great grandchildren. Dorothy was preceded in death by her parents; her brothers John (Jack) and David; husband, Bob, and son, David. Internment will be private. A visitation will be held at 10 a.m., followed by a service of witness to the resurrection at 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 9 at First Presbyterian Church, 817 Harrison St., Topeka.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to First Presbyterian Church of Topeka.
To leave a special message for the family online, please visit www.PenwellGabelTopeka.com