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"Most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives."

~ Andy Rooney





Madora Jane Dawkins
1919 - December 16, 2016

Madora and Jess Dawkins

    One of our long-time Eatonville residents, Madora Jane Dawkins, died peacefully in her home at 4:30 a.m. Thursday, December 15. She had just celebrated her 97th birthday. Her youngest daughter Anita was by her bedside when she passed.
    Madora lost her husband Jess, 33 years ago, so although she was widowed early, she continued to live life to her fullest, and remained active. Madora was full of life from her youth, excelling in swimming, skiing, dancing, and especially as an accomplished acrobatic ballet dancer. Folks who knew Madora said that she had a kind and generous spirit, a friendly and happy demeanor, and many, many friends.
    Most people, however, did not know that Madora’s childhood was frequently marked by sadness and tragedy. Her own mother died when Madora was four, and her father was unable to care for her by himself, so she was raised along with two cousins by her mother’s sister, who was the only mother Madora ever knew. Tragedy struck this family, however, when Madora’s cousin Ronnie had a seizure and drowned in a shallow pond as a youngster. The family mourned his death for years.
    Madora and her cousin, Jeannette, remained close into adulthood, but again the family was wracked when Jeannette’s son Ross—then in his twenties and newly engaged—was killed in a freak glider accident. Again, Madora was a comfort and support to the family who had adopted her, but sadness came again when Jeannette, who was more like a a sister than a cousin, was struck down early by stomach cancer.
    Through all these family heartaches, we never saw Madora’s pain; she never pitied herself, always showed care and concern for others and she remained strong, prayerful and supportive to others. After High School, Madora entered the University of Washington in Seattle, actively engaging in the swimming team and ski club. She also worked summers and between semesters at Paradise Inn at Mount Rainier National Park in a variety of jobs.
    She was a regular performer in the entertainment troupe performing for guests on weekends with her acrobatic dance routine. It was during one of those numbers that her dance partner failed to catch her at a critical point in their routine resulting in Madora falling and painfully breaking her leg.
    Fortunately for Madora, a park tour bus driver by the name of Jess Dawkins was in the crowd and he volunteered to drive the injured dancer to the closest hospital in Tacoma where she had surgery and was put in a full leg cast. This quick action and “tour-bus-turned-ambulance” led to more hospital visits by Jess, a fairy tale romance, and Jess and Madora were married in 1939.
   Madora loved Jess and she loved their beginnings at the Mountain, and often regaled her children with fondly-remembered stories about her work there. If you were ever fortunate enough to see Madora in her later years rocking in her favorite rocking chair out on her deck, with her handmade afghan around her shoulders to keep her warm, she might have also warmed your heart with a story about how, decades earlier, Jess’ father, Bembridge, was one of the skilled craftsmen who laid the hardwood dance floor in the romantic Paradise Inn, where thousands of couples have spent romantic evenings dancing and embracing on that floor flanked by enormous stone fireplaces crackling hot with Douglas Fir logs.
    Jess and Madora were forced to cut short their honeymoon when Jess’ mother had died unexpectedly. Again Madora was called upon to comfort…this time her new husband. The Depression had decimated the senior Dawkins’ family finances, so as was fairly common in that era, Jess’ father, now widowed, moved in with them and lived with Madora and Jess for most of the next 25 years, helping with their businesses and providing much needed assistance with the family.
    Madora loved her father-in-law, also calling him “Dad”. She described him as a quiet, kind, gentle and courteous man who adored his grandkids. His grandkids knew him as “Nanny.” He was a skilled master carpenter and Madora loved it when he would put his talents to use to build her kids a glider swing or a rocking horse, a sandbox or even a club house! 
    After living in Tacoma for a few years, Madora and Jess (and “Dad”) moved to Eatonville where  they owned and operated King’s Place Restaurant on the Mount Highway. Rationing that was so prevalent in WWII took a toll on tourism and travel to Mount Rainier, so as Madora would say, “After too many years of too long days with too little income, we sold King’s Place!”
    They then bought another business—one that was perhaps more recession-proof—the Eatonville Red and White Grocery Store-which they operated for 15 years. Madora and Jess had six children: Jesse Jr.-deceased-(Connie); Suzanne (Al) Lustie; Steve (Vera) Dawkins; Mark (Kathy-deceased) Dawkins; Dan (Deanna) Dawkins; and Anita Dawkins. Madora is remembered by her children as a loving, busy, energetic, and hands-on mother.
    She was especially known for her ability to bake scrumptious pies and cookies by the dozen. When it was the ‘season,’ days from sunup to dusk were spent canning and preserving whatever was coming fresh from the orchards and fields of Eastern Washington. Her yard itself was a veritable orchard with a variety of apple trees, pear trees, cherry trees, and prune trees.
    When she wasn’t busy harvesting, preserving or freezing food, she would be tending her wildly prolific garden. She grew beans, corn, raspberries, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, sunflowers, and anything else that would grow in Eatonville’s notoriously rocky soil. Madora used to say our garden’s most successful and prolific crop was “rocks.”
    Madora was a loving mother, but that love included discipline when it was appropriate to administer a well-deserved spanking to correct some child’s aberrant behavior, like when one of her kids set fire to a neighbor’s porch (creating no small embarrassment for her husband who, as a new volunteer fireman was called upon to extinguish the fire his son had just ignited.) Or when another launched a baseball-sized rock through the dry cleaner’s window to “see if it would break.”
    Her favorite weapon for capital punishment was a flat-sided hair brush. All her children learned enormous respect both for their mom and that double-purposed device. After her youngest child Anita started Kindergarten, Madora returned to her education with a focused purpose and after years of commuting to school in Parkland, taking night classes, weekend and summer classes, she graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a degree in Education.
    She was hired part-time by the Eatonville School District, but soon the administration saw her dedication and love for children, and she was offered a full-time position that eventually spanned thirty years. Madora loved to teach…about anything. She taught her own kids how to read, how to cook, how to type, how to use reference books, how to play the piano, how to iron a shirt and sew on a button. Her kids remember how she would encourage them in the value of reading… “I couldn’t boil water when I got married,” she would say. “But if you can read, you can learn to cook!”
    She especially loved teaching the fourth grade, and many Eatonville residents (and even their children) will remember her fondly as a caring, dedicated educator who would provide a needed hug to a little guy who had his feelings hurt, or a snack to a little girl who forgot her lunch or a blanket to lie down on under her desk if they weren’t feeling well. Madora regularly paid for supplies and snacks for her students out of her own purse, if there was no budget at school.
    Madora loved the Lord, and not only professed Jesus Christ as her Savior but also encouraged her children to follow Christ, to attend church, read their Bibles, pray, and to live God-fearing lives. When the kids were young and Madora was beginning her teaching career, mornings in her home were hectic….She would be up early creating a breakfast that may have consisted of hotcakes and bacon and eggs or warm cream of wheat and toast with homemade jam, French toast and ham, or other delights. Then after she had helped the little ones get properly dressed and warm, she could be found at her desk in the back bedroom secreting a few precious minutes with her head bowed in prayer and her Bible open. She never failed to thank God for His mercies, for His provision, and to trust Him in good times as well as in difficult ones.
    Madora loved hymns, and loved to play the piano and sing them. She described her playing ability and her voice as “very garden variety” but she had a theory that in Heaven, Christians would be given the gift or talent they so much desired on earth. And so, she was convinced that after she died, God would endow her with an angelic voice in Heaven to sing His praises. (She’s probably belting out “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” right now! Maybe putting Sandi Patty to shame.)
    Madora was a lifelong learner, and she loved to travel, continuing to visit countries all over the world as long as her health permitted. She not only enjoyed these trips immensely but she also incorporated what she learned into her teaching with stories and facts about the exotic lands she had visited. Well into her 80s Madora was still being called upon to substitute teach and the stories and pictures from her travels were fascinating to her students who would remember Mrs. Dawkins’ fourth grade stories all their lives.

     March 20, 2005: This "Save Van Eaton Park" sign mysteriously, and humorously turned up in  one of Madora Dawkins'  50 -year-old trees over the weekend. Madora's home on Center Street in Eatonville has that Norman Rockwell look except there's a sign in her tree. It's a crow's eye view of the logo to save the little park on the hill above town. Madora, a retired Eatonville Elementary School teacher, also has a sign on her fence and has been collecting signatures on a petition to preserve the small park with the great, big view and the dangerous slopes.
(Publisher's Note: Madora was extremely careful about taking a stand over various controversial town issues
as she worried about how the school board would feel about it. However, in this case she overcame her worries and left the sign and petition on hr property realizing the danger in building a housing development on a hazardous, landslide area. The development did not happen.)

    She was a fearsome Scrabble player, which she played with anyone who dared take her on. Many have been vanquished by that sweet, old lady with words never heard before and scores that were embarrassingly one-sided. Madora’s friends and her family were amazed by her seemingly limitless energy. Rarely would she be content to sit in front of the TV for more than a few minutes. There was always cooking to do, baking, sewing, knitting, needlepoint, classes to prepare for, tests and assignments to correct, children to discipline or encourage, her own kids’ football, baseball, or basketball games to watch, music lessons to take some kid to, or to pick them up from, and kids’ concerts to attend.
    One of Madora’s passions was teaching little kids dance steps and working with them to choreograph their little feet to perform. A highlight of her year was her annual production of the Maypole Dance performed before the “King and Queen” of the Eatonville High School’s May Day Court. Every year Madora selected new music to serve as accompaniment for her little fourth-grade performers as they wound the pole with their festive Spring-colored ribbons. Madora was recently honored by the school for her success in this happy annual Eatonville celebration.

     Madora was a long-time secretary-treasurer of the South Pierce County Historical Society and very active in society events. Here she entertains at a society picnic on her "famous" deck with some of the other members of the society. Left to right: Carol Cook, Pat Hamilton, Madora and Evelyn Guske. Photo circa 2004.

    When her own kids started to leave the nest and the family pace started to slow,  Madora found  new activities to engage in. She was a long time volunteer at the Good Samaritan Gift Shop, a member of Lady Lions, and The South Pierce County Historical Society. She loved animals and always seemed to be nursing some poor stray cat or dog back to health. At any one time there were two or three cats that had adopted her cozy deck as their home, primarily because the old softy, Madora provided an ample supply of food and water.
    Madora Dawkins is no longer sitting on her deck at 403 Center Street, smiling and waving to passers-by. Of course she slowed down in her later years, and we didn’t see her out and about as much, but she left a positive mark on the lives around her and she will be remembered and missed by many. A Celebration of Madora’s life is scheduled for Saturday, January 14, 2017, at 1 p.m. at the Tanwax Country Chapel, 36417 Mountain Highway East, Eatonville, Washington, Pastor Dan Tanner will be presiding.

   (color photos by Bob Walter)


Memo Across the Heavens
On the Eve of Ms. Thorvaldson’s Memorial Service...

To: Ms. Margit Thorvaldson, AP English Teacher

From: Dr. Leslie “Yatie” Shore, former student

Re: Gratitude: For a Lifelong “Love” of Learning

Date: October 29, 2016

Memo of Gratitude to an Extraordinary Teacher

Excerpts taken from a letter of thanks sent to Margit in early August

Margit died at home on August 27, 2016 at the age of 88

     Thank you for all that you did to engender the lifelong learning of your students. You truly were an extraordinary teacher. So few educators know that students possess evolving, agile minds that benefit from exacting mentors. So few teachers will say: “Good job: now work harder. . .” because you knew we could learn and do much more than was asked of us. You encouraged us to push ourselves beyond educational comfort zones and to continue raising our own expectations until life’s very end.
    There is a reason that a plaque graces the entrance to the classroom where you taught Eatonville students for 39 years. It is the space where most of us in our community learned about: Shakespeare, The Canterbury Tales, Moby Dick, Virginia Woolf, The Great Gatsby, Robert Frost, the Brontë Sisters and many others that comprise the canon of English Literature.

The Classroom Plaque Reads:

    “This plaque is placed at the door of the classroom where Margit Thorvaldson taught at Eatonville High School from September 1950 to June 1989. It is given in thanks for her teaching, her love of learning, and her devotion to her students, challenging them to be the best they could be. It was in this classroom that she taught the children, the parents, and the grandparents of Eatonville.”

    As my college advisor, you and I met often to discuss class loads and during one session you explained E.M.
Forster’s simplistic formula used to distinguish between factual record and dramatic record. “The King died and the Queen died,” you explained, was factual record while a dramatic record of those two events would be: “The King died and the Queen died of a broken heart.”
    Forster wasn’t as nuanced or as accurate—even with his own analogy. He explained the facts to be the root of “story” whereas the addition of the phrase “a broken heart” serves as “plot.” Your interpretation was more precise because you identified how dramatic writing utilizes emotional consequence—a distinction Forster didn’t state quite as eloquently.
    Your classes prepared us so well for liberal arts at the college level, where most courses repeated the same material you covered in high school. Your unyielding belief in us was not sentimental, it was a belief predicated upon the demonstration of hard work and determination.
    Thank you for introducing us to new worlds, for being our champion and our unyielding coach. Your independence, sophisticated travels and continuing studies (including Shakespearean seminars at Sarah Lawrence College in New York during summers) inspired me to continue my education until earning a doctorate. When I was finished, you sent me this witty congratulatory note:

    “When you sober up from all the champagne you’ll be drinking, you may be able to read this little message,
telling you how proud I am of your achievement! I know you well enough (from early pioneer days in Eatonville)
that your PhD won’t stand for “Piled higher, Deeper!”

    Well, Margit, a PhD may eventually mean the very words you indicated but in the  meantime, some parting
ones from Forster and me. A factual record of your life might be: “A dedicated teacher died in a small town.” However, a dramatic record of your life would be: “A dedicated teacher died in a small town leaving behind generations of students who cried from a broken heart.” Your independence, strength and exceptional mind inspired us always, Miss Thorvaldson. Safe travels, old friend.

   Margit Thorvaldson’s Memorial Service: Sunday, October. 30 from 1:30-5:30 p.m. The Ohop Grange
41608 Mountain Highway E. Eatonville WA 98328.

Margit and Students made the Seattle Times

     Photo from the Seattle Times Saturday, April 17, 1954: The cutline reads, "Bootstrap Juniors - Miss Margit Thorvaldson looked on as her pupils assembled mimeographed reports for Eatonville's 'Operation Bootstrap,' a community action organization.
    "Pupils are permitted to participate as 'Bootstrap Juniors' as a reward for good class work. The project's objective is social and economic betterment for the area."

    (Publisher's Note: Operation Bootstrap studied many aspects of the area and made reports on all of those aspects. Arguably the most important, and useful, of these "reports" is the "Bootstrap Book" an invaluable history of the town and surrounding areas/communities which most small towns do not have. The book's "official" title is, "The History of Tacoma Eastern Area" Compiled and written in about three months by Jeannette (Larin) Hlavin and Pearl Engle. The book covers the area from the earliest days up until 1954. It is a treasure trove of information.)

    See Margit Thorvaldson's obituary below.


Margit Thorvaldson - A Most Progressive Woman

July 19, 1928 - August 27, 2016

     Margit Thorvaldson, age 88, passed away on August 27, 2016. She was predeceased by her parents Leif and Margit Thorvaldson, brother Leif Thorvaldson, niece Karen Kristoffersen, and her loving cat Petunia. She is survived by her sister Elsie Kristoffersen of Tacoma, nephew John Kristoffersen (Bernadette) of Walla Walla, niece Anne Kristoffersen (Charlie) of Tumwater, great-nephew Kristoffer Rice of Tacoma, great- niece Ann (LuAnn) of San Diego, CA; great-niece Nikki Hafezi (Feri) of Switzerland and great-great nieces Leilah, Lili, and Lola, great-nephew Jon Erik Kristoffersen (Randi) of Guam and great-great niece Sophia, and Norwegian cousins Bjorn Arve, Ase, Sigrun and their families.
    Miss Thorvaldson was born in Rye, New York, on July 19, 1928. Her parents both emigrated from Norway in 1922. Her father was a master cabinet maker who built two alters for St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
    Miss Thorvaldson graduated from New Paltz State Teacher’s College in New York in 1946.
    In 1950, Miss Thorvaldson was hired as an elementary school teacher for  the Eatonville School District. In the early 1950s, she was offered an opportunity to teach overseas for two years. She taught in Germany for one year and transferred to another teaching job in Libya for another year. Since the schools were located on Air Force Bases, she could catch a ride to just about anywhere in the region to explore other countries, specifically Egypt and around the Mediterranean Sea.

    Upon her return from overseas, she was rehired to her teacher’s position for Eatonville School District. For the next 37 years, Miss Thorvaldson built a reputation as a tough but fair English teacher dedicating countless hours to help educate her students. In her honor, the Senior classes of 1982 and 1987 dedicated their school annuals to her.
    In 1989, Miss Thorvaldson retired. The Eatonville School District presented her with a plaque to be placed outside her classroom which states “This plaque is placed at the door of the classroom where Margit Thorvaldson taught at Eatonville High School from September 1950 to June 1989. It is given in thanks for her teaching, her love of learning, and her devotion to her students, challenging them to be the best they could be. It was in this classroom that she taught the children, the parents, and the grandparents of Eatonville”.
   Through the years, Miss Thorvaldson crossed the Atlantic Ocean four times by ship, and  countless times by air to her beloved ancestral home in Norway. Working with her cousin, Eva and her husband Olaf, they built a cabin on an ocean island, which she spent over 35 summers enjoying her home country and her Norwegian cousins and “Tantes” and “Onkels”.
    Miss Thorvaldson remained active in the Eatonville community up until her passing. One of her more historic contributions was her University of Washington Master’s Thesis regarding the history and consolidation of the pioneer schools in the Eatonville area. This document was later used in the recorded history of “Operation Bootstrap”. Operation Bootstrap was a joint venture between the University of Washington and the Town of Eatonville to determine what economic opportunities Eatonville might attract due to the closure of Eatonville Lumber Company.

    Miss Thorvaldson became a leading volunteer in this undertaking. Always being the teacher, she and her students were responsible for reproducing the historic interviews taken from various community members at the time. Today, this transcript, The Tacoma Eastern, is regarded as one of the most accurate historic references of this area.
    Miss Thorvaldson’s philosophy was to strive to always be kind to people. She could never imagine living a better life than she had lived. She remained strong in body, hopeful and positive in mind, and very grateful for those in her life.
    Elsie, Anne, and Kristoffer, would like to express their heartfelt thanks and appreciation for the support, love and assistance given to Miss Thorvaldson, especially in her last days, by her dear friends, Rich and Ruthie, “Angel” Elaine (Ron), and “Angel “Carol (Bob). We also extend thanks to all of Miss Thorvaldson’s many other dear friends, including Margo, Leona, Theresa, Kim, her neighbors, mail person, and former students in the Eatonville Community. You made a big difference in her life and ours as well.
    In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Animal Care of Eatonville (ACE), c/o Bob Walter, PO Box 131, Eatonville, WA 98328 or Eatonville Dollars for Scholars, PO Box 1155, Eatonville WA 98328.
    A celebration of Miss Thorvaldson’s life will be held at the Ohop Grange 41608 Mountain Highway E Eatonville, WA 98328 on Sunday, October 30 from 1:30 p. m. – 5 p, m.

Margit in Her Beloved Garden...

R.I.P. Miss Margit

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