My wife and I were honored to be invited into the Yeager Family “inner sanctum” on February 2, 2019. It isn’t often that non-family members get the opportunity to participate in a family's special occasion...to be included in such a momentous event in a family's life, especially a rare 90th birthday celebration.

Dorothy Shimo Yeager—known affectionately as Dottie to her friends and family—a long time Havelock resident of over 60 years—celebrated her 90th birthday on February 2, 2019. Family members from as far as San Francisco and many friends attended at the Carolina Pines Fire Station the celebration of Dottie’s birth and life.

One of the reasons it’s an honor to be invited into a family’s inner sanctum is that one learns things about a family that would otherwise be unlearned…one learns private things that highlight the family’s humanness, beauty, and “color”. Uninvited into the inner sanctum, families can appear to outsiders as bland, colorless, and run of the mill.

There’s nothing run of the mill about the Yeager Family. It is, by a long shot, no ordinary family. It possesses the colors of a rainbow thanks largely to Dottie as its matriarch.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1929, Dottie has been fortunate to come from a family of sisters. Just as she grew up in a family of sisters, Dottie was blessed to be a mother to four daughters herself, including one advancing to Chief Master Sergeant in the US Air Force serving our nation for 30 years. Dottie has also been blessed to be a grandmother and great grandmother to 12 grand- and great grandchildren during her long and fruitful life.

The above “Dottie-isms” are not uncommon in America. But what you learn invited into the Yeager inner sanctum is more personal…more private…more exceptional. Dottie is a vanishing breed of women who never finished high school. As a young, pretty 19-year old waitress preferring to work instead of going to school, she ran off in 1948 and eloped with her husband, Paul, in Ellicott, Maryland against the wishes of her parents who initially disowned her. Her parents eventually “saw the light”, accepted—even embraced Paul when they discovered what a good man he was—and the two love birds were married until Paul’s death in 2007.

During those 59 years, Paul joined the Marines and Dottie served as a Marine wife for thirty years supporting his distinguished career. Paul advanced to Sergeant Major, USMC and served many years at MCAS Cherry Point.

Not only did the Yeager’s raise four girls to productive adulthood, but they took in several children (both human ones and furry ones) to help protect and raise them, a job that fell mostly on Dottie’s shoulders given her Marine’s duties and responsibilities.

While serving in the roles of wife, mother, sister, and friend, Dottie nonetheless still found time to be actively involved in the Civitan Club where she was the recipient of the Civitan Carl Hagar Service Award for the individual who deserves recognition for conscientious and dedicated service to the community. She was also presented with the Civitan of the Year award presented in recognition of outstanding leadership and exceptional service.

Somehow, amongst all her other responsibilities, Dottie still found time to sell Avon products (and she still does working as an Avon representative for over 30 years) and being honored as the recipient of the “Spirit of Avon” award in 2017 because of her attitude of giving, sharing, and selflessness.

I’ve mentioned in the past in this column that my wife, too, was a long time Havelock citizen, raised here from birth in 1952 and a resident until I convinced her to marry me and swept her off to Okinawa, Japan and career as a Marine Corps wife in 1992.

How this relates to Dottie is that Havelock, especially when my wife was little, was also much smaller then. And therefore most everybody knew most everybody else. So Arlene knew Dottie whose daughter Chris was one of Arlene’s best friends at Annunciation Catholic School and at Havelock High School where both Chris and Arlene graduated in 1970, Chris then enlisting in the US Air Force and Arlene setting off to college. Their friendship has lasted 60 years.

Arlene in her coming of age years remembers Mrs. Yeager (as she still addresses her) as the “fun Mom”…the Mom that was less judgmental, more easy going, and more happy-go-lucky than other moms.

On top of everything else she is and that she’s done in her life, Dottie was the fun Mom. She sure has had a colorful, fruitful, wonderful life, hasn’t she?

I’m glad for our invitation into the Yeager inner sanctum. We got to learn some lively things about their family and meet some wonderful people.