Dottie Durham Retires after 30 Years of Beautifying Globe
Have you noticed the little garden at Hill and Ash streets? This small plot next to Hill Street School is actually a love note to Globe – using the language of flowers.
The Globe Garden Club originally started the space, but Alice Lynn maintained it for years. When she retired, she tapped Dottie Durham to take over.
Dottie had moved to the community a decade earlier, when her husband, Dr. Michael Durham, came to work as a physician. They loved their new town, and when Dottie noticed trash accumulating on the highway, she decided to do something about it.
“I called up Gene Pearsol on the radio and spoke about how trashy the city was getting and asked if anyone was interested in joining me to clean it up,” she recalls. Alice Lynn, Lee Baiza, Margaret Mendoza, and Sue Conto showed up, which led to the formation of the original Globe Clean and Beautiful group.
When Alice later asked Dottie to take over the triangle garden, she agreed. “Lee helped me, and we took out all the evergreens and cleaned it up. I then began to purchase benches, bird baths, small bushes, and flowers,” Dottie explained.
Since then, she has continued daily care for this garden for almost 30 years.
“I’m a morning person,” Dottie says. “I would leave the house by 5:30. There’s always deadheading and raking and watering, sweeping, weeding… always something to do.”
When asked who substituted when she was on vacation, Dottie laughed, “I would pay someone, so we wouldn’t go out a lot!”
“We didn’t leave town much anyway, so it was no big deal,” she explains. “But I really enjoyed the garden. It’s good exercise, and Lord knows I need exercise.”
To understand Dottie’s commitment to Globe, it helps to travel back in time, to long before she and Michael arrived in Globe.
Michael wanted to be a physician like his father and uncle, but when he applied to medical school, he was turned down. Dottie remembers, “He applied to the states, he was a Viet Nam veteran – two tours, and he was 30 years old. They told him he was too old. He still has the letter!”
Not to be deterred, they found another way to pursue his dream. “Quite a few American veterans were heading to Guadalajara, so off we went,” Dottie says. The Durhams moved to Mexico for three years.
“They were growing years,” Dottie says. “I love languages, so Spanish was not a hard thing for me. Michael kind of spoke Spanish when we went, as he had studied it in the service, but I admired him so much. Everything was in Spanish, all his lectures, everything! I don’t know how he did it. It just blows my mind.”
There were many cultural adjustments for Dottie, too, yet she wouldn’t trade those years. “I’m so glad we did it.,” she says. “I kept telling myself, ‘This is like the service, Dottie. This too shall pass. This is temporary.’ You don’t have the amenities you have in the states, but I’m so glad we did it.”
In 1973, the newly minted Dr. Durham began a year of pro bono work. “Because he graduated from a medical school in Mexico, he had to do a free year. So we lived in El Paso, and he did a year with no income at a clinic in Juarez. I substitute taught, and our parents were supportive.”
After completing this obligation, the Durhams looked for a new home. Dottie is originally from Connecticut, and Michael is from south Jersey, but they didn’t want to go back east.
Dottie explains, “Because he spoke Spanish, he looked all around Arizona. We’re not big-city folks, so we chose Globe.”
This choice has been a godsend for the Durhams and for Globe.
Dottie has dedicated herself to this town through many venues: caring for multiple community gardens, serving on St. John’s vestry, helping individuals in need, and reaching out to the deaf and hard of hearing through her passion for American Sign Language (ASL).
“I love studying languages,” Dottie says. “Before I got married, I studied at Goethe Institute in Deutschland (Germany). You’d walk into the classroom, and everything was in German. It was an intense course.” She adds, “I took French and Spanish in high school. I just love languages! Now I am studying ASL. I have dinner parties for people who sign.”
Besides creating community for the hard of hearing around a dinner table, Dottie is also famous for her philanthropy – expressed through chocolate chip cookies and gift baskets.
Dottie started baking cookies years ago for the church bazaar. She shares her treats with community organizations, and they are always a big hit. Even though it’s not a family recipe, Dottie is emphatic: “I don’t give out the recipe! I tell people it will be on my obituary page.”
Dottie loves talking about her gift baskets. “Oh, it’s fun! I love doing that. I always give presents or gifts that I either love or that I would want.” She’s known for hiding a hundred-dollar bill somewhere in the basket.
Dottie’s baskets are auctioned for charity and have brought in as much as $900 each.
Dottie says, “I always want to know who won it, how much did they pay, and did they like what’s inside, so I can do it again.”
After 30 years of contributing to the community in so many ways, Dottie is retiring this month. She tapped Debbie Yerkovich and Leslie Parker to take over the triangular garden.
“I’ve enjoyed doing it,” Dottie says. “It was my ‘God corner,’ you know, my spiritual time each morning.”
She hopes they will love it like she has.
Thea Wilshire works as an author, psychologist, speaker, healthcare consultant, and AirBnB host. Her passions include community development, the creation of public spaces, trying new adventures, and sharing her therapy dog with schools and medical facilities. Find her blog at https://www.acornconsulting.org/blog.