Dorothy Boatz's Memories
A prayer and remembrance service will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday at Boelter-Eastgate Funeral Service, 200 W. Turnpike Ave.
Dottie was born Dec. 25, 1915, in Toledo, Ohio, to Fred Becker and Rose (Heitzman) Becker. She attended St. Charles School in Peru, Ind., and upon graduation worked for a law firm from 1934 until 1946. On August 10, 1946, she married Robert (Bob) M. Boatz and they resided in Agate, where Bob was a grain buyer. In 1951, they moved to Humboldt, Minn., where they raised a family of seven children. In 1969, they moved to Underwood, and in 1980 they retired to Bismarck. Bob died in 1990, shortly after which Dottie moved to Minnesota.
Dottie will be remembered for her humorous stories which were published in several newspapers and magazines. As an octogenarian, she wrote for a magazine "Going Places" which most often featured her family and friends. Her favorite pastimes included scrabble games, rummage sales, corresponding with friends and family, and family gatherings as well as her writing. Dottie took special pride in her family, friendships, community and church. She appreciated the inherent goodness of people and embraced good old-fashioned values of strong moral and work ethics, family closeness, and awareness of othersâ needs. She will be remembered as a person of great compassion and love for family, friends and community.
Dottie is survived by three sons, Robert, Jr. (Margie), St. Joseph, Minn., Dave, Fargo, Jerry (Tammy), California City, Calif.; three daughters, Mary (Roger) Motschenbacher, Fargo, Beth Aldinger, Rogers, Minn., and Sue (Danny) Williams, Seguin, Texas; a sister, Mary E. Diver, Indianapolis; a brother, Jim Becker (Bev), Las Vegas, Nev.; 12 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and four nieces.
She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband; and two sons, John and Steve.
Comments of Michael Rustad & Dotty Boatz:
Going Places with Dotty Boatz
The death of Dotty Boatz left my world and the world in general a smaller and lesser place. Dorothy Ann Becker Boatz was born on Christmas Day in 1915 in Toledo, Ohio. Dotty, as she liked to be called, was the daughter of German-Americans Fred Becker and Rose Hietzman. Dotty was a person of great intellect. If you don't believe me, ask any of the Ph.Ds, attorneys, and scientists who tried to beat her in Scrabble. She described her childhood as part of the pre-VCR, video-game and television age:
Most of my growing-up years were spent in Indiana, where I learned all about Dick, Jane, and Spot in a traditional little, old, red schoolhouse.
After a sketchy but drilled-in parochial school education, I became a pre-school calculator, pre-word processor, pre-computer, pre-fax machine secretary of sorts. When I reached the peak of my earning power ($25 per week), I was faced with the choice of staying with my lucrative position or marrying a North Dakota farm boy whose income was only slightly higher than mine. Fortunately, I chose the latter plan and soon became a pre-food processor, pre-microwave, pre-TV dinner housewife. In due time, I also became the mother of seven pre-VCR, pre-boom box, pre-dirt bike, pre-roller blade youngsters who were so underprivileged that they had to wear T-shirts without messages on them.
Dotty married Robert Michael Boatz Sr. on August 10, 1946. Bob and Dotty had a happy marriage and built a dynasty of sorts. Robert Michael or Mick became a distinguished mathematics teacher beloved by generations of students. David or Davy has had a successful career in the business of medical products. Mary and Sue have also had successful careers in the medical field. Beth is in a position of trust in the banking industry. Jerry became a rocket scientist. And Dotty loved her Stevie. The Boatz kids developed compassion by loving their profoundly retarded brother. When Bob and Dotty made the difficult decision to institutionalize Stevie, it was a family decision made with love and compassion.
Stevie developed a skill set and was well cared for at the Brainerd State School and he had loyal family visitors until his death in his thirties. Dotty was proud of how her young, strong sons Mick and Dave always made a point of keeping Stevie in the family circle as did Jerry and the girls. One of the great lessons in life that the Boatz kid learned was the meaning of compassion and caring for those with less advantages. I think that they learned the essence of what it means to be a caring human being. The Boatz kids defended anyone with a handicap and I think it set the tone for our entire school. I remember that we had a boy about my age who was profoundly deaf and spoke but a few words. Dave took him under his wing and included him in every activity. For a teenager, this kindness was unusual and emblematic of true Christianity compassion learned from Dotty and Bob.
In the words of Mark Baldwin, all of the Boatz kids have turned out to be good citizens. Bob and Dotty Boatz had a successful family life and socialized their kids in a milieu of love and support. This family tradition has been passed on to their children and grandchildren. She was beloved by her son-in-laws and daughter-in-laws and loved them in an unqualified way. She told me that she loved to hear Margie, Mick's wife, laugh when the family engaged in hypercompetitive parlor games. She loved company and especially the arrival of her grandchildren and their parents, who gathered often.
Bob, who came to age in Bisbee, North Dakota was an elevator man and a good one. During the early years of their marriage, Bob worked in a succession of grain elevators in small towns throughout North Dakota from 1946 to 1951. He was manager of an elevator in Enderlin, North Dakota in 1951 when he accepted a position as elevator manager in Humboldt, Minnesota. In a 1991 essay, Dotty wrote of her life with Bob in the elevator business:
Because my husband Bob was a grain buyer, we lived in many small towns. We started our married life in Agate, N.D., (population nine), Cando and Enderlin were distinct improvements because they both had sidewalks and water towers. Although Humboldt, Minnesota took us back to the primitive lifestyle of Agate, we stayed there for 18 years. Our next move was to Underwood, N.D., with its blessed water tower. It was there that I wrote a column for the McLean County Independent newspaper at Garrison.
In a telephone conversation I had with Dotty, I asked her about her first impressions about Humboldt, which was then a town of about 160. Dotty told me that her first impression of Humboldt was disgust. It was a primitive town without paved streets and there was literally no place to live. This was about to change. Dotty told me how the Boatz family rode into town and met up with Pearl Diamond Iten who took them to the home that Jim Burton now lives. When Dotty first laid her eyes on the home, she saw that he had no furniture, stoves, or even the rudiments of plumbing. She told me that there was only a primitive and temperamental water-pump in the kitchen. The toilet was a horrible, spider-ridden privy without even the benefit of chemical treatment. Since there were no cooking facilities, so Dotty purchased a hot plate. She heated wash water, bath water, and food on the hot plate. The water supply was also primitive as Humboldt had no treatment plant. Clarence Iten (Pearl's spouse) sold water by the tank. In the Boatz family, water was a scarce commodity. The family that baths together stays together. However, it was a fight to determine who got the first bath and resignation to those unlucky to bath in the residue. Dotty had never seen anything remotely like the rural slum-like conditions of Humboldt, having lived in a modern home in Enderlin.
Dotty took Humboldt into her heart despite the fact that it was no Enderlin. She had to make due and build a nest for her husband and three small children: Mick, Dave, and Mary and a fourth coming along the way, her beloved Beth Elizabeth. Dotty was outgoing and inviting and soon had a large circle of friends. The first person she met was Pearl Iten. The Boatzes developed friendships with Quint and Helen Tri along with my parents, Pat and Rustee (Alfred Jr.) Rustad. A life-long friendship developed between Bob and Dotty Boatz and the Baldwins (Joyce and Mark). The Baldwins made a point of calling Dotty every Christmas Day which was her birthday. The circle of Bob and Dotty friendship grew like a weed to include Joe and Alice Giffen, Harvey and Helen Diamond, Verne and Sarah Hunt and the Hilson Stewarts, to name just a few of the closely-knit social ties.
Bob, Rustee, and Mark soon became deer hunting buddies. Later, there were bonds with families of St. Anne's Catholic Church that included the Baldwins, the Ohmans, Stewarts, and the Tri family. Dotty was part of the women's church group that cleaned the church, which was no easy task given that St. Anne's Mission Church had no running water supply. When I asked her how it was possible to host dinners at the Church, Dotty's response was simple. The church ladies brought everything they needed including the water. The Boatz family evolved into the gathering place for card games for Bob and his gang which usually included Joe Giffen, Rustee Rustad, Mark Baldwin, and so many others. Joyce, Dotty and Pat formed a close bond of friendship along with so many town residents of that period. Soon there were card games, potlucks, and picnics. Bob and Dotty became close friends with Don and Marian Brown. It was Dotty who set the tone and built these enduring bonds of friendship and family. Age or generation did not mean a thing to Dotty. Sarah and Sylvan Miller's daughter Pat was a good friend as was Margaret Diamond, who was of a completely different generation. Later, she became friends with Gloria Iten, who was married to Bob's right hand man Punkie Maier. Before that she befriended Louise Docken whose husband worked as an assistant to Bob. The Boatz family had Kerr Matthew to dinner, who lived as a relative outcast in a tar paper shack. Roger Abelson, Harold Borg, Ruby Ohman and every other teacher became friends with Dotty and Bob. I place the names in that order because I think it was Dotty who was the Boatz family's social chairman.
Don Brown, son of Tom Brown, one of Humboldt's great founding fathers was the manager of the local filling station Dotty learned very quickly that Humboldt also had refined and gracious citizens despite the rudimentary living conditions. Dotty mentioned how Sylvan and Sarah took the young couple under their wings. Sylvan and Sarah Miller, for example, had a modern home and were refined and educated persons. Dotty left Humboldt in 1969 but kept in touch with Harvey and Helen Diamond who offered Dotty and family an open invitation to stay with them whenever they visited. When Dotty visited Humboldt for the annual picnic recently, she rekindled so many friendships and told me every detail of every conversation with her old friends. She told me that when she came to Humboldt, many homes were without the modern conveniences. Yet, the Baldwin and Brown homes were models of excellence as were the two Bockwitz mansions as she called them. She was friends with Vera Bockwitz and Marian Brown, who lived in the big houses. Dotty regarded Joyce Baldwin who attended the University of Chicago as one of the brightest and most creative persons she met. Humboldt was a town where social class, generational, and age differences made less of a difference. Humboldt was a tale of two villages with its "haves" and "have-nots." However, even the haves displayed less conspicuous consumption than their net worth warranted.
Bob Boatz soon gained the respect and trust of the local farming community. He won over the Diamonds, the Wieses, Gatheridges, Turners, Bockwitz, and other great farmers of that era. When the farmers' elevator association had their annual dinners at the Methodist Church, it was clear that the association flourished under the Bob Boatz regime. Bob was impressed with the elevator and the farming methods of those using his elevator. They built the Boatzes a new house, with indoor plumbing. It was hardly a mansion, but a comfortable home. Dotty found it difficult to adjust to the housing offered in Humboldt. She told me how difficult it was imagine caring for three children under these conditions. She managed to find a babysitter who was one of twenty-one children. Kathryn Kropelnicki was an enthusiastic care-giver for Mick, Dave, and Mary, but had one condition: "No infants!" Dotty was soon to find another babysitter as Beth Elizabeth was on the way.Kathryn apparently had been overdosed on having so many crying babies at home. Fortunately, there were a number of neighbors who were able to supplement child care when Beth came along. Margaret Diamond became a favorite babysitter and a legendary family friend.
Even though Dotty found it difficult to adjust to the town, she grew to love the people of Humboldt and this has been a love affair that has lasted from 1951 to 2005. She mentions the harsh weather. The worst storm that she could remember was the tornado of 1961. Bob started home from the elevator and could not make it. Dotty found shelter with the kids in Alfred and Margaret Rustad's home all except Dave who was sleeping at home. The water came in through the windows and the front door blew open. All of the electric lines were down, but Dave slept through the entire storm. She described how the tree in front of the Methodist Church was split in half, while the church was undamaged. Dotty prayed with her children and for her children that they would all survive the storm. There were twigs and leaves embedded into the paint of their house from the force of the storm.
The memories of Humboldt are embedded in Dotty's writings. She was the eyes and ears of Humboldt in the 1960s when she served as the columnist for the Kittson County Enterprise. Her columns were a treasure trove of humor and great stories about the characters of Humboldt. In recalling her column for the Enterprise, she described the joy of reporting about the little events that so make up a small town:
My sideline "career" [as a columnist for the Kittson County Enterprise] at that time revolved around a news column that I wrote for the local paper. The going rate for that endeavor was 5 cents per inch. I reported on Mamie's [Jury] new glasses, Tommy's [Brown] tonsillectomy, Eldon's political predictions [Eldon Turner], Melvey's [Stewart] laryngitis, Bill's tractor breakdown [Bill Gatheridge], and the advent of new kittens at the Gatheridge farm. If Pearl's [Pearl Iten] plum preserves didn't jell or Rustee's car [Rustee Rustad] wouldn't start on a cold day, both events received full coverage in the newspaper. Since all of this enable me to finance the cost of a new typewriter ribbon from time to time, I considered my "writing" to be a successful venture into the business world.
Not only was Dotty Boatz a prolific and very funny columnist, but she could also be a serious writer. She wrote about the family decision to institutionalize their son Stevie and how heart wrenching the decision was for each family member. Dotty co-founded The Scribe Tribe, which was a community of writers in Northwest Minnesota. The Scribe Tribe began as a continuing education course. Bob Norton, was not only a writing teacher, but a member as were Pat Rustad, Gloria Swanson, Virginia Ott, Don Keller, and many others. The high school writing class morphed into a club with meetings in homes. These were more than social events and everyone in the club felt a great social pressure to produce writing. My Mother's writing was a byproduct of Dotty's encouragement as well as the guidance of the other writers. It was Dotty who first suggested that a writing course taught at Humboldt-St. Vincent High School continue on as a club and she was one of the most active members. The Scribe Tribe proved to be a huge success and Dotty participated until the Boatz family moved from Humboldt in 1969.
Virginia Ott and Gloria Swanson used the Scribe Tribe as a springboard to write a well-received book on the life of Casey Jones. Pat Rustad, my mother, published a string of articles in magazines such as Today's Farmer after having her work critiqued by daughter. Dotty was our Prairie Home Companion decades before Garrison Keilor began his famous radio program. When she moved to North Dakota, she continued to write her columns. Dotty was a gifted writer and story-teller who often poked fun at herself. When she wrote about family and friends, it was always an uplifting experience. One of her favorite subjects for her essays was the mischievous Davy Boatz. I've retold so many of Dotty's stories about her son, Dave that when I told me son that my dear friend was very sick, he asked whether this was Davy Boatz's Mother. Dotty wrote with eloquence and humor with writing that reflected her generosity of spirit. The very Dotty Boatz essay that I read was her 1964 tribute to my Grandmother, Margaret Rustad. In just a few pages, she was able to capture the essence of my Grandmother. Dotty was a good judge of character and personality and to this day I have kept the copy of her tribute.
Loved by all who knew her, Dotty was the glue that not only bonded family and community, but raised it to new heights. I knew Dotty as my catechism teacher. Her religion was not only Roman Catholic but catholic in the sense that she was open-minded and receptive to other religious traditions. She was anything but a narrow-minded zealot about her religion. She lived her religion rather than blabbed about her special relationship with Christ. She eschewed such self-centered drivel in favor of Christianity with a big C signifying compassion. Her religion was built upon bedrock of faith through good acts not mindless repetition of doctrine. Her religious tent was wide enough to encompass persons of good faith and fair dealing of all doctrines. I am certain that she did enjoy a personal relationship with Christ but did not trumpet her beliefs but lived them.
Dotty's home had an open door policy to the neighborhood kids who often found safe refuge, compassion, and cookies at the Boatz home. Every kid in Humboldt knew that Dotty was a counselor of great skill because she was an avid listener. Joanne Hunt used to come over to get a few minutes of advice from Dotty about how to cope with so many brothers and sisters. All of the Hunts were regular visitors. Bob Bockwitz once stopped by to ask Dotty compose a love letter. Everyone knew of her eloquence and her incredibly beautiful handwriting. You could imagine that Dotty could have done illuminated manuscripts with her beautiful handwriting. Every one of my certificates from church or school was inscribed by Dotty. It is a comfort to revisit her handwriting and her aesthetic. I recently came across one of Dotty's essays entitled, "Going Places," that described her life as a writer and a wife/mother. Here's her description of her life after the death of her Bob:
After 44 years of a very good marriage, I became a widow in 1990. Because Bob was one of my favorite topics when I wrote for the Garrison paper, I plan to include him as well as other members of my family in the column I will be writing for "GOING PLACES." This , of course, is contingent upon the readers reaction to a column being written by a grandmother who should, more appropriately, be crocheting doilies and feeding her canary.
Dotty was never one for crocheting doilies or feeding canaries, because throughout her life she had a broader mission. At one point in the mid 1950s, there were so many kids that wanted to stay at the Boatz house that she had to host them in shift. Never known as the best housekeeper in Humboldt, but she was known as having the warmest hearth. She was compassionate and loved everyone in town from the town drunk to the town bully. She saw the best in people and often kids with problems rallied and fulfilled her expectations. This, ladies and gentleman, is what Christianity should be about.
In the past five years, I reconnected with Dotty and her family. I've made a practice of calling her every month or so and our conversations always gravitated back to Humboldt and the people of Humboldt always interested her. I am certain that Dotty is probably reconvening that writing club at Heaven's Gate.
With deep admiration,
Michael L. Rustad