Dorothy Grace Mcphail was born August 15, 1915, in Hysham, MT. Her parents were Robert and Dorothy Belle Mcphail.
Dorothy grew up on a farm north of Hysham near the banks of the Yellowstone. She had three siblings, Myrtle, Bob and Ted. From her description, we know that hours of toil were the norm for farm children in those days, and she and her siblings shared the work of tending the beet fields, milking cows, doing whatever was necessary to help make ends meet.
Dorothy attended school in Hysham where she excelled in many subjects and learned to type over 100 words/minute. Her reliability, intelligence, and the skills she had developed in school led to a job in the Treasure County AttorneyÂ´s office shortly after her graduation in 1933. Later she became a social worker in Treasure County, and she retained this position for over a decade.
After her father died, Dorothy and her mother bought a large house in Hysham which they ran as a boarding house. A handsome young man named Herb Zent passed by her home daily on his way to work at Zent Hardware. The details of how she got his attention remain undisclosed but Herb and Dorothy became acquainted, eventually fell in love, became engaged and were married. They remained in Hysham, where they lived for a time in Grandpa (Mathias) ZentÂ´s home. Here Dorothy learned to perfect the art of German cooking and entertain large numbers of people. These skills would remain with Dorothy throughout her productive life, and she used them tirelessly and joyfully to fulfill one of her most divine callings, serving others.
Eventually, Herb and Dorothy got their own home, and in the spring of 1950 their heartsÂ´ longing was fulfilled when they were able to adopt, not one, but two children at once! Joe was two years old and Kathleen was 3 months old when they brought them home from Helena. Photographs reveal their happiness at this fateful time in their lives. The celebration and sheer joy of the event are evident in every picture.
When we think of adjectives to describe Dorothy as wife, mother, and friend to many, these words come to mind: dutiful, serving, loyal, faithful, reliable, dedicated, compassionate, exemplary, methodical, outspoken, firm and disciplinary, genuine, humble, uncompromising in her principles, and always there for anyone who needed her.
Dorothy demanded perfection of herself in all that she did. She was a detail-conscious individual whose "masterpieces" included a beautiful needlepoint birch tree, a still-life floral painting, quilts too numerous to count (one for each grandchild and many more to warm family and friends), prom dresses, coats, ball gowns, chocolate chip cookies, homemade ice cream, and a "larruping good" lemon pie which could have made the cover of "Better Homes and Gardens".
Perhaps DorothyÂ´s most exceptional gift was her musical talent. Her inherent rhythm and outstanding ear for music may have begun surfacing in childhood, but it was not until later in life, when she had a career and money of her own, that she was able to fulfill her dream of owning a piano and studying music. It was DorothyÂ´s destiny to share this gift with others. She started a dance band in the 50Â´s with brother Bob on drums, Eddie Kimball on clarinet, Cec Wright on sax, and herself on piano. They played for many public dances in the Hysham gym, bringing pleasure and recreation to the community for many years. Dorothy also served as organist at St. JosephÂ´s Catholic Church in Hysham throughout her productive life. At weddings, funerals, graduations -- Dorothy happily took her place at the keyboard --never wanting or expecting applause and accolades, she humbly shared her prodigious talent.
DorothyÂ´s leisure time was spent bowling, baking, attending basketball games with Herb, fly fishing on the Boulder River in summer, playing bridge and doing crossword puzzles.
Later when Kathleen married a Canadian and took up residence in Alberta, she and Herb travelled to see Steve, Kathleen, and the grandkids nearly every summer. When Herb passed away, she continued to make the journey by plane.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty in summarizing DorothyÂ´s life is encompassing all that she was and all that she gave. As we struggle with this task, we find it impossible to include all those people who were near and dear to her --- all the loved one's she cherished --- the number was too great.
We know for certain that Dorothy loved her family: her husband Herb, her children Joe and Kathleen. They were her life. Later, as grandchildren arrived, she and Herb made the long journey to Alberta to welcome each one -- and when Steve and Kathleen and the kids came to visit, Dorothy joyfully donned her apron again.
JoeÂ´s visits home from Phoenix were less frequent but were net with equal joy and huge hugs.
Dorothy lost her husband Herb in June of 1994. He had survived a blood infection in the fall of Â´93 and had been living in the nursing home in Forsyth for several months. Dorothy at this time was beginning to show signs of dementia, and after HerbÂ´s death, this progressed. Kathleen and her family came from Canada and spent time with Dorothy, and Dorothy continued to fly to Alberta until it was no longer possible. Joe tried to visit as frequently as possible, but the distance from Phoenix was daunting. Dorothy wanted to stay in her home despite her loneliness and isolation from family. Her nephew Tommy came daily to visit Dorothy and faithfully took her downtown to lunch. Neighbors kept a watchful eye on Dorothy, and Ozzie stopped by nearly every day.
Dorothy continued to play cards at the community center and travel to Billings weekly with Bob Miller for senior outings, but as time passed, her condition grew worse and became a serious concern for friends, neighbors, and family.
In 2005, Dorothy suffered a minor stroke. She was hospitalized at the Deaconess in Billings and rehabilitated at the nursing home in Forsyth. Kathleen and her youngest daughter Emily had moved to Billings and they persuaded Dorothy to come and live near them at Vintage Suites. This was a happy period in DorothyÂ´s life, as she was able to see Kathleen daily and they enjoyed playing rummy, going out to eat, and taking drives around the city.
DorothyÂ´s son Joe died tragically in December 2005 from a virus. Mercifully, Dorothy was unable to comprehend this loss with her mental impairment and was spared the sorrow it could have caused her.
She continued living at Vintage Suites until 2009 when Kathleen moved her to Autumn Care II, where she could receive the therapy she needed as her mind and body declined. DorothyÂ´s final days at Autumn Care II were spent in the company of the most compassionate and loving caregivers in Billings. They kept vigil, along with Kathleen, as pneumonia stole her life away. Father John (from St. Pius) was summoned and came instantly to anoint Dorothy and give reassurance and comfort to Kathleen. Rocky Mountain Hospice nurses and aides assisted throughout the week and answered KathleenÂ´s every question. We thank everyone who loved Dorothy and showed her compassion throughout her life.
Dorothy is predeceased by her parents, Robert and Dorothy, siblings, Myrtle, Bob, and Ted, her husband, Herb, her son, Joe, and her niece, Nella Jane (Janie) Robison.
She is survived by her daughter Kathleen Zavisha, son-in-law Steve Zavisha, grandchildren Sean, Camille, Andrea, Suzanne and Emily Zavisha and JoeÂ´s son Christopher. She had 9 great-grandchildren and another is due in July.
Rosary will be Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm at St. JosephÂ´s Catholic Church in Hysham, MT.
Mass of Christian Burial will be Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm at St. JosephÂ´s Catholic Church in Hysham, MT.
Burial will follow at the Hysham Vale Cemetery.