Herald JournalHerald Journal, Feb. 21, 2005

Dorothy Borrell: family most important

By Rachael Kittock

Born and raised in Waverly, Dorothy Borrell enjoys being part of a large, loving family.

After all, she is related to several large families in the area, namely the Claessens, Klingelhoets, Fitzpatricks, and Borrells.

She was born Feb. 11, 1919 at her home in Waverly, the daughter of Leo Claessen and Agnes Klingelhoets. The baby of the family, she had two older brothers, Walter and Henry.

She was an average student at St. Mary’s Catholic School, and remembers getting into trouble only once in sixth grade, when a young lady behind her pulled her hair. She turned around to hit her back and the teacher caught her.

She remembers celebrating holidays with her grandparents next door, Peter and Mary Claessen.

Santa would come to visit during the holidays. Christmas was her favorite holiday because her dad’s side of the family would gather, complete with 12 kids.

Dorothy got along with her parents very well. She was very close to her father, as well as her mother.

She can remember times when she and her mother would just lay on the floor with the giggles.

Since she got along with them so well, she wasn’t punished very often, but if she got a little mouthy, she would get a little whack.

She attended college at St. Kate’s in St. Paul for a year, and then to St. Mary’s Hospital in Minneapolis for one year. However, she never fulfilled her dream of becoming a nurse.

Dorothy remembers doing hair for others – receiving 10 cents per person.

Her first big job was at the Cokato Hospital when she was about 21. She worked there for one year.

It was hard to get by financially in her house when she was younger, Dorothy said.

Her mother made most of her clothes. She can’t remember getting any new clothes. The kids at school seemed to love her clothes. Her mom helped her make her own undergarments including bras. Many things she had were made from printed flower sacks. For underwear, her mother would bleach the fabric.

She told me “That is absolutely ridiculous!” when we went shopping the other day, upon seeing a bra for $38.

Some of her hobbies when she was younger included roller skating, swimming, and basketball, which the nuns didn’t think was appropriate for the girls to play since it was too rough.

The basketball uniforms were one-piece outfits gathered at the waist, with buttons down one side. “It came down to our knees,” she said.

She also loved to dance at the old town hall, which has since burned down.

Her father was fire chief at the time, and was almost killed because the building started to collapse while he was on a ladder.

Dorothy witnessed this near-fatal accident, along with her girlfriend.

“I just screamed. I can still remember it,” she said.

The girls were watching the fire in their night clothes, with a coat thrown over, and their photo was taken by the Minneapolis newspaper, she said. It was in the next day’s paper.

She was 23 when she married Fritz Borrell.

At their wedding, they had two bridesmaids, two groomsmen and one flower girl. They made reservations for Father Charles Morgan to marry them.

Although her friends were very happy for her, they cried all the way down to the hotel because they we losing their best friend Dorothy.

For the first four years of their marriage, she recalled not having any electricity.

They also used a gas washing machine with a pedal, which sounded like a motorcycle, she said. “You had to clean the spark plugs to start it,” she said.

She was happily married for 35 years to Fritz. Unfortunately, he died of heart ailments.

Years later, she married her second husband Charlie Lewis, who was killed about nine years later in a car crash.

She had 12 beautiful children from her first marriage, after she jokingly told somebody that she wanted a dozen.

Starting from the oldest, she named them (as she took a deep breath): David, Janet, Rose Marie, Kenny, Patrick, Bernie, Richard, Charles, Michael, Gene, Jerome, and Virginia.

The boys seemed to cause the most trouble, but the girls had a few spats of their own, she said.

“Those boys were always full of ginger,” she said.

Two incidences while raising her children were the most difficult for Dorothy to go through, one being the death of her young son and another when one of her daughters was severely injured.

Her son Bernie was tragically shot and killed in a hunting accident.

Her daughter Rose Marie was burned when her dress caught on fire at the age of 8.

Dorothy also had to endure the recent death of her grown son Mike Borrell, who died from cancer.

She tried to raise her children with the same system of values that she was raised with herself.

One of her daughters came by to talk with her one day, thanking her for raising her so well, and apologizing for not appreciating all that her mom did for her.

Dorothy laughed when asked if she was able to afford everything that they wanted and needed while she was growing up. The children received just one Christmas present each.

She remembered one Christmas when all of the children received a bike. Mike was teased a little bit, but he soon found his bike outside, on the porch.

Her children weren’t sick very often, but when they were it would usually affect at least five others, she said.

All of the children were always brought along to church. The children thought that they were too smart to go to church, which is the same way most children are today.

She can still recall when everyone went off to war during World War II. She was still in high school, since she graduated in the spring of 1938. They started to draft people before she was out of high school.

She does not approve of wars, Dorothy said. She does not approve of any kind of violence.

She objects to war because it takes the men out of towns, leaving the women behind to do the jobs at home.

During World War II, Dorothy remembers food rationing, and only being able to get a small amount of sugar.

What’s wrong with the world today? Young ladies getting pregnant out of wedlock, she said. If anyone got pregnant when she was young, she would just leave town instead of anyone finding out about it. She does not feel that children nowadays have as good morals as they used to have, such as obeying parents when they are disciplined.

She believes soon the world will get better because “It can’t get any worse.”

She still keeps in touch with Betty Flannigan, a childhood friend.

She attends class reunions for the class of 1938, which had 12 other students. There are only five left.

When she dies, Dorothy would like to be remembered for being a great mother, and loving her children as much as she does.


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