Honoring Dorothy Soares Allen

I had the honor of speaking today at the memorial for Dot Allen, my mom’s best friend. My mom asked me to do it saying she couldn’t – she was in tears for most of today. I don’t blame her, I can’t imagine losing my best friend(s)! What follows below matches pretty closely with what I actually said. It was a beautiful Celebration of Life for Dot.

Dorothy Soares Allen, September 15, 1944 – September 20, 2012

Thank you for coming to celebrate Dot’s life today. Thank you to Bob and Lee for asking me to share a few words about Dot.  It is indeed an honor, thank you.

Many of you have shared your memories of Dot, which were incorporated into the Celebration of Life book; I hope you have a chance to take a look at it today.

I’m going to talk about a few of the things that were most mentioned about Dot in all of the letters and notes sent in the last few weeks. I’m also going to throw in a few personal stories about Dot along the way!

Dot relished collecting, analyzing, and interpreting information and sharing her findings.

This showed in her love of life,

  • her love of food,
  • her love of teaching,
  • her love of travel,
  • and, her love of family, and in particular, her love for Bob.

Your comments and thoughts about Dot focused on how:

  • Dot nurtured and cared for her friendships
  • She had a zest for life and adventure
  • Dot took voyages of (and for) curiosity and pleasure
  • She was a favorite instructor/mentor to many
  • She was one of those people who did everything with effortless excellence
  • And Dot was someone who left you with magical memories.

Let’s start with how Dot

Nurtured and Cared for Her Friendships

Dot was kind, warm, comforting, loyal, committed, compassionate, cheerful, and considerate.

She was such a good friend to many:

Dot’s conversation was sophisticated, interesting, and varied.

Yet, she was such an excellent listener. This kind of conversational ability and listening kept friendships from all parts of her life alive throughout the years.

Dot was interested, thoughtful, patient, and above all else, calm and non-judgmental.

Many of you mentioned her sharing, generous nature with the hospitable use of her home and the gifts she gave.

To me (and others too, from what I have read and heard), Dot’s generosity knew no bounds—she even included my children in our Boxing Day brunch and gift giving traditions.

Mostly her gifts to my family and me were punctuated with something Cal related or at the very least blue & gold.

She loved to needle us about the Cal-Stanford rivalry, yet many of the bears in my bear collection have come from Dot’s travels around the world.

That’s really not surprising given her family legacy.

  • Her grandfather and grandmother were Cal grads;
  • Her father was a Stanford grad and was part of the Immortal 21 that once stole the Stanford Axe;
  • Dot and Bob were Stanford grads as well, so the Cal-Stanford rivalry was something Dot took great delight in.

Not only did she relish finding me the perfect “Cal” gift, she delighted in being able to find the perfect gift that each recipient would enjoy and cherish.

On the other hand, it was always fun to try to find a gift for Dot – something in French or German or old linens with Cherries on them – whatever it was, she always appreciated it and promptly sent a beautiful hand written note of thanks, which brings me to a very important part of why Dot was such an amazing nurturer of friendships:

All of this nurturing was augmented with actual written correspondence – in these days of email and facebook and twitter, she actually wrote letters, by hand. Many of you mentioned these handwritten letters, thank-you notes, and everyone’s favorite, the Allen Christmas letter.

The Allen Christmas Letter was almost always the first one we received every holiday (along with a cute advent calendar for the kids!)

Dot excelled at conversation, listening, and corresponding, all the things that create close, lasting relationships but more importantly – she was willing to work her various friendship networks and BE the glue to keep them together and get everyone together over food.

Dot had an amazing Zest for Life and Adventure

She had a cultured upbringing that led to an appreciation of world cultures.

Her zest for life was nurtured by living abroad as a child and learning various languages; these things drove her to seek adventures all over the world. I’m sure you all have a Dot travel story you could share!

Dot was noted for finding the best and most interesting food, especially coffee, chocolate, wine, and things to do with Bob’s abundant fruit production, which we all love and appreciate!

One of my favorite Dot memories is about cheese. She always was introducing us to interesting and funny cheeses.

My favorite Dot & cheese memory dates all the way back to 1981, which is when we first moved to California AND when Lee and Dot fatefully met at SRI, quickly becoming BFFs.

Our first winter in California was crazy.

We had an El Nino winter with tons and tons of rain, which of course led to tons and tons of snow and our introduction to skiing and the Spiel Haus.

We spent many ski weeks together over the years.

I loved having our families hang out together and that is where we had our introduction to eating raclette – which is melted cheese served over sausages and potatoes. How can you go wrong with that kind of a meal!

My family now shares that melted cheese dish with others every New Year’s Eve.

Dot was the ultimate Hostess.

She and Bob researched recipes and introduced the resulting food to their ever-appreciative friends and family at dinners and parties.

We all particularly remember the Poor Taste Parties, soup and salad Parties, reunions, and birthday parties with barbershop quartets and many in exotic locations.

I need to say a few more words about the Poor Taste Party and one of its offshoots. Dot and Mom threw me a Poor Taste Bridal Shower, which included gifts like doctor’s kits, handcuffs, and a few other things I won’t mention here. That was a very memorable shower!

Dot handed over her hostess pin along with her treasure trove of poor-taste party door prizes and decorations to me to carry on the tradition—so look for an invitation to the next generation of the Poor Taste Party.

I will try to match her sense of adventure!

Dot took voyages of (and for) curiosity and pleasure.

Dots’ adventurous spirit was recalled by many of you in your comments on Dot and Bob’s love of travel – particularly the love of travel to France.  You equated her love of travel with a strong sense of life-long learning and curiosity.

Dot had an uncanny ability to research and find interesting, eclectic lodgings, attractions, and places to eat. Hopefully you were able to share in that with Dot on one of her many trips.

Dot had a love of perusing antique stores and flea markets, especially during her many travels.   Of course she loved antique stores and flea markets here at home too, like the Oakland White Elephant sales. Dot also loved a good estate or garage sale, and consignment stores.

One of my first memories of going to garage sales with Dot when we first moved here included our finding sleeping bags and our first set of skis.

I loved that Dot had a rating system for garage sales based on the signage and whether they had baskets. Every time I see garage sale signs I think of Dot and her rating system!

She definitely looked for things with curiosity and interest, especially if she was trolling for poor taste party door prizes!

It always gave Dot great pleasure to find a deal on something interesting at one of these sales.

Dot was a Favorite Instructor or Mentor to Many

Dot’s love of teaching began early in her career and was evident throughout her life.  This love of teaching was recalled by many of you who remember her as an advisor, role model, mentor, and (my mom’s favorite) “a light anchored in reality.”

Dot was one of my first mentors, and I didn’t even know it.

Once I got my driver’s license, she gave me my first regular and “real” paying job, which was picking up Jenny and Josh from school and taking them home.

After we got to their house, we ate a snack, and then we did our homework together at the dining room table. I’m not sure I was considered a “Fun” babysitter, but we definitely got all of our homework done.

As I look back now, what a relief that must have been for Dot, as a working mom to have her kids home safely from school, fed, and homework completed before she got home from work.

I took my responsibility seriously as she had entrusted me with her kids! I loved it because I got my homework done, and I earned good money. Her generous nature even extended to being an employer!

She was the best kind of mentor; the kind who was always looking for a way to help others.

Dot enriched our lives by providing guidance (both personal and career guidance); she supported others, and more importantly, she was willing to fight for what is right.

Dot loved teaching and being a mentor and it shows in the stories everyone has shared. 

Dot Exhibited Effortless Excellence

At work, Dot was seen as professional, honest, steady, confident with a quiet strength, understated, and humble.

She was seen as incredibly intelligent, bright, insightful, and was someone who possessed an amazing memory.

She was a major contributor, and she was a driving force in getting things done and building exceptional relationships with co-workers, clients, and customers.

She possessed outstanding organizational and planning skills.

She was indeed, a woman of effortless excellence.

Finally, Dot has left us all with Magical Memories

Almost everyone who sent in a memory or story, remembered Dot as FUN. She had a sense of humor that can only be described as quirky, witty, and sly.

People also appreciated her eclectic (and memorable) taste in food, jewelry, clothing, gifts, and household décor.

I went to see her on Labor day and her generosity and eclectic taste were evident even then. She gave me a few things she wanted me to have or take care of –  like the 1903 Cal pin from her grandfather (Joseph P. Loeb of Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles) that she wants me to give to back to the “other” university;

She also gave me a couple of hand knitted sweaters, knowing as a knitter I would appreciate them. She had supported many artists who made unique clothing throughout the years and those sweaters had come from that effort.

Lastly—Dot will be remembered for her magical eyes.

  • Eyes that danced,
  • Eyes that could be mischievous,
  • Eyes that had a humorous glint, and were ALWAYS observant.

Rest in Peace, Dot—we love you.

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