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
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!
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
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
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
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
One of Madora’s passions was teaching little kids dance
steps and working with them to choreograph their little feet
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.
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
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
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,
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.
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
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.
Her Beloved Garden...
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"Education if the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the
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counts is best."
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~ Dalai Lama
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am ready for whatever the world throws at me - today or tomorrow."
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what is woven into the lives of others."
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