Dorothy N. Colley (October 12, 1922 - June 29, 2007)
Dorothy N. Colley
to be included here.
We regret to announce the passing of Affirmation member Dorothy Colley. She passed away on Friday, June 29th after a lengthy illness.
"Colley," as she was known, was loved by all who knew her. Over the last ten year she held leadership positions in Affirmation including Women's Concerns, the Chapter-at-Large, and conference planning. In 1999 she chaired the Affirmation annual conference held in Lake Tahoe—the first time ever the conference was held in that town.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 14, at 4 p.m. at Circle's Edge Religious Science Church (on the 2nd floor of the Truckee River Terrace), 501 West First Street, Reno, NV 89503.
Born October 12, 1922, in New Orleans, Colley had been a Reno resident since 2000. During World War II, she was a member of the Women's Army Corp. She was an accomplished musician, playing french horn and trumpet in the Women's Army Band.
Colley was a psychiatric social worker in the San Francisco Unified School District. She retired to Gold Hill, Nevada, and established the Gold Hill Pottery and Art Gallery in the Gold Hill Bank of California Building where she was able to share her artistic passion as a potter.
Surviving Colley are her nieces, sisters-in-law, and companion Diane Gordon.
In lieu of flowers, contributions to Circle's Edge are welcome. She was dearly loved by so many friends all over the world. She will be greatly missed.
Tribute by Bing Young
When I first saw the "in memory" title of the email, I opened it, expecting to not know the person—I usually don't. But when I read the name Dorothy Colley, it was like being hit in the stomach. Dorothy Colley? It was not possible. She was going to outlive all of us. How could death ever get a hold of someone so self assured, so stubborn, so strong, so caring, and so dynamic? Well, I remembered, she was in her mid 80's. But it still didn't seem possible.
I was fortunate enough at one period of my life to have spent many, many hours with Colley (the name she often went by) at the home she and her partner Diane Gordon had built at the foot of Job's Peak in the Carson Valley of Nevada. When I first moved to Northern Nevada for a job in 1998, I friend Krayton Stephens from Las Vegas introduced me to them. Once I was living there, D&D (as we called Dorothy and Diane) became sort of surrogate parents at a critical time in my life as I was in the beginning stages of coming out.
I would drive down from my little cabin at Lake Tahoe at least once a week and have dinner with them. Or they would bring dinner up to my place. Diane was a fabulous cook and made the best fruit salad I have ever had in my life. Dorothy would usually be out working in the
yard when I arrived. I cannot recall the dozens of other times we ate at the local Basque and Mexican restaurants, or that we sat long nights chatting about politics, music, art, history, Mormonism, social problems, and just about everything else that you can imagine. We were often joined by the other lone Affirmation member in the area, Jeff Denison, who also contributed much to the 1999 Affirmation Conference.
Strangely enough, Colley had converted to Mormonism rather late in life (she was raised Roman Catholic), largely due to the influence of a kind stake president who had served as her attorney. She stayed with it until she realized how homophobic the institutional part of it was. Diane never converted but supported Dorothy both in and out of Mormonism.
I have never personally known anyone that was in Dorothy's league as far as making pottery goes. She had studied pottery and art in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico as a young woman in the 1950s, after getting out of the Army, where she served in World War II. Dorothy was also a musician, and played the French Horn and piano, and had played in the Army band if I recall.
After she retired from her job as a school counselor in the San Francisco area in the 70s, she bought property (an old hotel I think) in Virginia City, Nevada (Gold Hill, to be exact) and started doing her pottery full time. After commuting regularly to Nevada for a couple of years on weekends, Diane also retired from the San Francisco school district and moved to Virginia City to be with Dorothy.
In her heyday in Virginia City, Dorothy could not make her pottery fast enough to satisfy the demand.
(Dorothy had very few examples of her work lying around because people would beg her to sell whatever she made.)
After a mining company started dynamiting the area near Gold Hill and destroying Dorothy's pottery, Dorothy and Diane bought property in the Carson Valley and built their dream house. It was on some of the choicest property for a home that I have ever seen anywhere in the world. Their house itself was a unique work of art—the creation of both Dorothy and Diane, each of them artists, who had thought through the details of how to design a beautiful home that suited both of their personalities.
Dorothy built a pottery studio in back of their home that was larger than many people's houses. It even included a small apartment so she could have a place to catch a little sleep while she was doing the firings, which were very time critical.
Dorothy worked on her pottery until the mid 90s, when her hip and other physical problems impaired her ability to "throw". It was very hard for her to give up being a potter, and she always wanted to get well enough to do it again. She loved taking people through her studio and showing them her potter's wheel, her kilns and the thousands of chemicals it seemed like she had on hand to make her signature glazes.
After she could no longer do the pottery, she turned her passion towards gay civil rights, joined Affirmation, and worked hard for years for those causes. Though she did not have a Mormon upbringing, she was particularly fond of Mormons, especially gay Mormons. She was the first person who ever told me about the Q-Saints group (though it was many years later before I ever joined it.) She and Diane worked hundreds of hours trying to get ready for the 1999 Affirmation conference at Lake Tahoe, and although I did not get to attend it, I was involved with them, in the early planning stages and saw how tirelessly she and Diane worked to be able to pull it off, and how they worried that they wouldn't be able to pull it off. But pull it off they did.
Sadly, I haven't seen Dorothy since shortly after 9/11, when my work no longer took me back to Northern Nevada. Life goes on, we get caught up in the melodramas of our own lives, and we too often lose touch as the years fly by. But Colley was one of the richest personalities I have ever known. I wish I had listened to a lot of the advice she gave me at the time she gave it to me—I would have been much better off.
One of the things Dorothy told me most often was that we gay Mormons needed to learn how to love ourselves, have no shame for who we are, and be proud and happy that we are gay. That is a very hard lesson for some of us to learn and internalize.
Though Colley and Diane "separated" around 2001—Colley moving to Reno and Diane staying in the Carson Valley—they really remained best friends. I am sure Diane is having a tough time, as Dorothy always remained Diane's one true life-long companion and soul mate. I know Diane is grieving deeply and I ache for her at this time because I know what Dorothy meant to her. They loved each other very deeply. I had many hours of conversations with each of them at a very hard time in their lives, and I know how much they cared for each other, notwithstanding the "separation."
When I first knew the two of them, they had been together for over 35 years, which was sort of an amazing thing to contemplate to someone new in the gay world. Though Dorothy was in her mid 70s when I first knew her (and I think would have been 84 or 85 this year), Dorothy somehow never seemed old. It was and is hard to accept the fact that she was mortal.
Dorothy loved the advances of technology, loved using the internet and email, cell phones, reading the latest books, attending conferences, learning about everything, and generally acting like someone 30 or 40 years her junior. She had a deep passion for life and art, deeply loved those that came into her life, and followed her own muse without worrying too much about what anyone else thought.
Dorothy had a marvelous smile, a hearty laugh, and a heart as big as Texas, her native state. I will never forget that face, that smile, that Texas drawl, and that kindly, slightly mischievous personality.
The world is truly diminished without her presence. Dorothy is one of the reasons I still hope there is an afterlife. Those of us lucky enough to have known her will never forget her.
Rest in peace, my dear friend and angel, rest in peace.
Tribute by Millie and Gary Watts
Gary and I are so sad to hear that Colley has passed away. We always looked forward to being with her at the Affirmation National Conferences. We were fortunate to attend the Lake Tahoe Conference she chaired in 1999. It was a great event.
Our hearts are with Diane and the other family members.