Dorothy Dodson Prunty, 98, a teacher, a lifelong advocate for civil rights and women’s equality and a 67-year resident of Jacksboro, Texas, died peacefully in Plano, Texas, of multiple causes. Her daughter, Gail, was with her.
Born in Gainesville, Texas, on May 30, 1920, Dorothy was the only child of Hazel and Warner Dodson. Her mother, Hazel Holt Dodson, was one of five children born on the family cotton farm near Slidell, Texas. Her father’s father was the local Presbyterian minister.
Dorothy’s parents moved to Boulder, Colorado, when she was a young child after her father found work with the Rocky Mountain News. Later they moved to Redwood City, California, where he worked for Hurst newspapers. She attended Mill Valley Middle School and Mount Tamalpais High School. When her family returned to Texas, she graduated from Decatur High School.
Growing up in the Great Depression, she was moved by the plight of the unemployed and destitute that came to the family’s backdoor asking for food. She said her mother never turned any one away without something to eat. While attending integrated schools in the West, she became an advocate for civil rights and a fierce critic of segregation and racial prejudice.
Dorothy began her college career at Decatur Baptist College and finished at North Texas State University in 1940. Her first teaching job was in Lawton, Oklahoma. With World War II looming, she joined the civilian workforce at a military base, and during the war years, she worked for the U.S. government in Panama.
When the war ended, she worked for the Red Cross in Tyler. It was here that she met Luther G. Prunty who was recuperating in a military hospital. He was a member of the “Lost Battalion,” the group of men who were taken prisoner by the Japanese in Java weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This group worked as slave labor to build the “Death Railway” through Burma and Thailand.
Dorothy and Luther met when a buddy asked to borrow Luther’s car to take Dorothy on a date. Luther was so smitten that when he was released from the hospital, he called and asked her to have dinner with him. She told him she couldn’t because she was playing bridge with her girlfriends. Subsequent requests were more successful and the two were married at the Fort Worth Methodist Church on June 1, 1947.
Following a honeymoon in Red River, New Mexico, the couple settled in their home on West Archer Street in Jacksboro, where they lived for the next 67 years. Dorothy joined The First Methodist Church and was a devoted member for the rest of her life. They had two daughters, Gail and Marsha.
Dorothy returned to work as a teacher, first in kindergarten and later 4th grade where she taught generations of the town’s nine and ten-year-olds. When children did not have enough money for workbooks or lunch money, she quietly paid for them herself. She used art to supplement teaching and every student handmade at least one paper mache puppet representing an historical or storybook character. In 1960, she received a master’s degree from North Texas State University.
Always active in the community, Dorothy served as a Girl Scout leader, a Sunday school teacher, and one of the original founders of The Clothes Closet, a thrift store which helped individuals and families in need. She also helped to organize the Jacksboro chapter of the Classroom Teacher’s Association and served on the Gladys Johnson Ritchie Library Board.
In the summers, at her insistence, the family took “educational” camping trips to the national parks, including Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Tetons, the Rocky Mountains, Mesa Verde and the Grand Canyon, among many.
In her early 50s, she began a freelance writing career and published dozens of magazine articles in state and national publications. With Luther, she hosted Carina Nielson, an exchange student from Sweden, whom she wrote about in an article called “Here Came Carina,” and whom she corresponded with as long as she was able.
After her daughters left to attend college, Dorothy travelled the world, and with Luther, she visited Australia and New Zealand. Together they returned to Thailand and Burma where he had been a prisoner of war, culminating in an emotional visit to the bridge over the River Kwai that he helped to build. They also visited the Lost Battalion memorial at the Punchbowl Cemetery in Hawaii.
Dorothy was an affectionate and devoted wife for 67 years and a loving and supportive mother, encouraging her children to read from an early age, and driving them to out-of-town libraries when the local library offerings were exhausted. To her own mother, she was dutiful and loving, visiting her weekly in Weatherford as long as her mother lived.
A lifelong Democrat, Dorothy was a great admirer of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and a strong supporter of women’s rights. She was disappointed that she did not live to see a female president elected.
Dorothy enjoyed playing bridge and was a master Scrabble player who was always ready for a game with her children and later, her grandchildren. She embraced technology and was an early adopter of the home computer, which allowed her to play bridge and scrabble with people from all over the world and to use email and Skype to communicate with her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other family and friends.
Dorothy is survived by her daughters and sons-in-law Gail and Mike Bialas and Marsha and David Canright; her granddaughter Liz and husband Brian Hull; and Lindsay Canright and Nathan Martens. She is also survived by her three great-grandchildren, Kaden, Evan and Breagan Hull, and many much-adored nieces, nephews and their children. The surviving widows of the Lost Battalion and members of the Second Generation were among her most faithful friends; she considered them to be part of her family.
Donations in lieu of flowers are suggested to The First United Methodist Church, 406 North Main Street, Jacksboro, 76458; Concerned Citizens, 400 E Pine St, Jacksboro, 76458; the Gladys Johnson Ritchie Library, 626 W College, Jacksboro, 76458; or the Cundiff Cemetery Association, 501 DeGress Road, Jacksboro, 76458-3024.