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Life Story / Obituary
Dorothy Osborne lived a long and rich life as wife, mother, volunteer and camper. We, her three children, John, Mary and Janet, want you to know about her.
Dad called her “Dort,” we knew her as “Mom” but during Girl Scout meetings, Mary and Janet had to call her “Mrs. Osborne” to get her attention.
She was born on June 18th, 1930 at the home of her parents, Edith and Edward Grieger in Detroit, Michigan. She went to grade school in Detroit. From ages of two to nine, her family spent 3 months each summer in Canada. They stayed at an abandoned lumber camp in a trailer her father built himself. She and her brothers had a wonderful experience camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, mountain climbing and blueberry picking. They made their own amusements, having not even a radio. They were a family, and they were always together. She often said she would not trade those vacations for anything.
In 1940, her family bought land near Northville, Michigan. As a family, they built their own house to live in. They were active in church groups and scouts. More houses went up and family members were added. When we lived in Kalamazoo, our family would go to Northville to visit. We always had a great time as there were grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins galore.
She met Charles Osborne at Michigan State in 1950 and they married in 1951. Their son, John was born in 1952. Mary was born two and half years later and Janet five years later They moved whenever Dad got a new college teaching job. First to Louisiana, then Montana and finally Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Mom was a volunteer. At various times she was a Cub Scout, Brownie, Girl Scout and Boy Scout leader. She transcribed books into Braille. Once she took her Braille machine to Janet's 2nd grade class, composing a letter to Helen Keller a year before she died. She was active in organizing and assisting the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony for many years when her daughters played in the oboe section. She helped in many ways including annual fundraisers and was "instrumental" in getting the entire orchestra and chaperones through a successful tour of the Netherlands, Germany, and France.
She volunteered regularly at the church in the Women’s Circle, Merchandise Mart and youth groups. Several times she helped other church members build and repair houses in Southern Indiana.
She and her family were caught in two different flash floods during camping trips. It was just her and her daughters in the camper during a flood in Colorado Springs because Dad and John were at Philmont, but she kept us safe. The second flash flood was in Estes Park and our family pitched in to help clear debris in the main street of town.
Mom was smart. She was interested and curious about everything and took classes or taught herself, catching on quickly. She had college degrees in music and later, librarianship. She learned how to transcribe books into Braille. She color-coded our camping tent for easy setup. She organized all of our camping trips, planned the route, attractions, meals and lodging. She was the GPS of her day, always with a map on her lap, giving Dad instructions. Getting through Omaha, Nebraska always took two attempts, however.
Mom made clothes for the whole family for many years. She was an excellent seamstress. She even made sports coats for Dad that looked as good as you would see in an upscale clothing store.
Our Mom gave us all the usual help, but every time we needed extra help, we got it. John needed early reading help. Mary failed her first driving test. Mother determined the problem was our car, a huge Pontiac station wagon we called Sherman because it was the size of a tank. In a Ford pickup, Mary passed easily. We all remember flashcards, drills, and help with homework. We didn't like it at the time, but we appreciate it now.
Our mother cooked all the usual stuff, but there was special stuff, too, and we enjoyed all of it. When young, we often had her scratch made bread. Best bread we ever had. She did canning and we took turns choosing a jar of preserves for breakfast toast. There was “engine pot roast,” beef wrapped in foil, wired to the engine. It smelled great at 200 miles and tasted great after the next 200 miles. She made Toll House cookie, not cookies – it was one cookie in a big baking dish. We served ourselves by cutting the widest foot-long slice we could get away with when all of us were watching, wider when they weren't. Once while camped in high mountains, we ran low on food and the store was a 2-hour drive. Mom put beef, vegetable soup, green beans and rice in a pot. Her resourceful improvisation tasted so good, we begged for it by name, “Mt. Rainier National Mush,” three more times. Not everything worked. She scorched cookies she baked for a dinner party with friends. We and Dad hack-sawed and filed the burned parts off (between laughing fits). She swore us to secrecy, and we kept it, til now.
Mom taught Dad the joys of camping, and how to do it, in tents and trailers. Her family camped together, and she passed it on to our family. It was a rough start, but it quickly turned rewarding. Our family camped all over the U.S. and Canada. We didn't realize how lucky we were to do all that traveling until years later.
Even after her kids grew up, she continued to travel. She went on numerous biking trips in the U.S. as well as in The Netherlands and Germany. She enjoyed going on Caribbean cruises as well as one to Alaska. She and Dad took Bob, Janet and the grandkids to Disney World in 1997 and Mary and Lance took Mom and Dad to Disney World in 2009.
Mom went on Outward Bound when she was 50 years old with a close friend. They backpacked, cooked over campfires, and navigated their way through the backcountry of Colorado for a week.
She loved watching live performances at Miller Auditorium and attended countless musicals and orchestral performances. Her favorite musical of all time was “The Phantom of the Opera” and she and Dad went to see it every chance they got. They saw it at least a dozen times in various cities in the U.S. and made numerous trips to Toronto to see it there as well.
Charlie and Dorothy shared 69 beautiful years together. We all celebrated their 50th anniversary with a family get-together in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We watched as they renewed their wedding vows at a quaint chapel in the Grand Tetons National Park, then shared a spectacular dinner at the Gun Barrel Restaurant in downtown Jackson. More recently, our entire immediate family gathered at Friendship Village to celebrate Charlie’s 90th birthday in December of 2018.
Mom’s journey was music, family, volunteering and camping.
Our journey continues.
Mom has left the trail.
Dorothy Osborne, age 90, died December 23, 2020 in Kalamazoo, Michigan just 10 days after her husband.
Surviving are her children: John Osborne and wife Marie, Mary Kizer and husband Lance, Janet Biles and husband Bob, grandchildren: Steven Biles and Laura Graham, great-grandchildren: Cooper, Ethan and Thea, and sister-in-law Sally Grantvedt.