Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The "Spirit of Dottie" Fills North Minneapolis As We Move Forward...
Photos and blog post by John Hoff
Dottie Titus, a longtime "force for good in the neighborhood," died March 10, 2011. That's already quite a while ago, relative to written tributes that appear after a person's death.
But even today, as copies of North News hit every doorstep in North Minneapolis, there was a Dottie Titus tribute on the front page, with a photograph of our girl wearing a Britney Spears Halloween costume. With each passing day, the spirit of Dottie does not seem to fade, but actually grows stronger. Her obituary in the Star Tribune was not a "standard obit," but more of the story type obit.
Some people seem to exist under angelic protection, and Dottie was one of them. She walked fearlessly amid open air drug deals and prostitution, documenting what needed to be documented, making numerous police reports, actually helping to start a website to get crime information to community members. Paradise existed in Dottie's heart and mind, and she worked tirelessly to bring her vision to reality, whether that involved...
...something as small as showing children how to make cookies, or something as large as crying out about the wrongs of public figures, click here for a fine example.
Dottie was both detail-oriented and a "big picture" person. Every person who visited her home walked away amazed: it was an island of beauty and order. Where did she find the time for so much WORK? Dottie was determined to make the order and beauty inside her house spill over into the neighborhood, even as she videotaped prostitution and drug deals taking place right outside her front door.
Within Dottie's lifetime, that kind of thing slowed down on Penn Ave. N.
Dottie won. Disorder lost.
Currently, our neighborhood is moving forward at a rapid pace. Progress is busting out all over.
But there were years when things didn't move forward very fast. It would have been easy to lose hope. But Dottie never lost hope, and she gave hope to others. Our current era of rapid change and progress in NoMi owes much to Dottie and folks like Dottie who put their shoulder to the wheel for years and years. We must take Dottie's spirit inside ourselves and move forward in that spirit.
Dottie died the month her license plates expired. How perfect, frugal, and orderly!
Kids in the neighborhood--including the "rocket boys" who shot off firecrackers with my son one Fourth of July--referred to Dottie's car as the "Yellow Zoom Zoom." A written tribute from one of the children, who now resides in Arkansas, was read aloud at the funeral.
She had a motorcycle, too, but I don't have a picture of it.
Songs at the service included I Need Thee Every Hour, Amazing Grace, and How Great Thou Art. The Old Testament reading was from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, and the Gospel reading was John 14:1-7.
Dottie's glasses looked like she had only put them down for a moment, and would soon pick them up again to look out her window and videotape something!
The photos of old Dottie and young Dottie are like bookends on a life. We are here for a moment on earth. We better make it count.
Attendees at the service took cookies from the "Cookie Cart" to give away to strangers, and tell them about Dottie Titus and what she meant--the lady who taught children in the neighborhood how to make cookies. Megan Goodmundson and I took half a dozen cookies and gave them away on the roughest block in St. Paul.
Cake. Not much to say about this photo except...cake.
When I was a child (I thought as a child, I spake as a child) I went to the funeral of my paternal grandmother. And I remember how, at the wake, my food seemed to have no taste.
I thought, "What is with this funeral food? Why can't I taste it?"
Death is looming and scary when you are a child. It overwhelms your thoughts and knocks the taste right out of your mouth.
I haven't been to very many funerals in my life, so each one is relatively memorable. What I remember about this funeral: I could taste my food. In fact, the food was delicious. To those who attended it was taken as a given Dottie was at peace with her death. As much as we miss her, we are at peace with her death as well.
Dottie cared deeply about her neighborhood, and we are still in that neighborhood. Driving down Penn Avenue North past Dottie's house, you can feel Dottie. And you can feel Dottie as your fingers punch the buttons of a cell phone and dial 911 on some no-account loitering and up to no good.
What is there left to do? What CAN we do? This is our neighborhood, and it will go to Hades in a hand basket if we don't stay on top of its many issues. So we mourn our dead, but celebrate her life, and we move forward.
It's all we can do. We move forward with the Spirit of Dottie toward order, beauty, and safety; an Urban Utopia of gardens, cookies, and well-behaved children.