Garry Gamble

Dorothy Grace was a diminutive woman who lived in a well-weathered two-story farmhouse across the rural gravel road from where our children spent their early childhood.

Dorothy married Stanley “Jack” Grace in 1933 at the family home in Clover Township and the two remained sweethearts until “Jack’s” passing just before Christmas in 1991.

If you want to picture Dorothy and “Jack” during their young courting years, look up Norman Rockwell’s classic illustration titled “Boy and Girl Gazing at Moon,” which appeared on the April 24, 1926 cover of The Saturday Evening Post.

I can’t help but think the prolific artist didn’t “just happen” to come across the young couple cuddling on the swayback wooden bench – the same bench where we would often find them nuzzling in their later years – and ask to capture the moment; the chronology is perfect, as is the image.

Dorothy affectionately became “Grandma Dorothy” to our children. When they visited Dorothy and “Jack” on All Saints’ Eve, she would produce a bundle of goodies she had prepared using her vintage kitchen wood stove: dried apples, apricots, roasted nuts and fresh-baked cookies.

Industrious and creative and always wearing a disarming smile, Dorothy was honored as Pine County’s outstanding senior citizen in 1993.

The year “Jack” began to fade, he told Dorothy, “I guess you’ll have to get my deer this year.” Sure enough, as Dorothy stood washing the dishes, looking out her kitchen window, she noticed a deer come into view. She dried her hands on her apron, went to where “Jack” always kept his deer rifle – leaned up against the wall near the door – and nonchalantly opened the kitchen window and fulfilled her childhood sweetheart’s request.

Dorothy and “Jack” were simple folk: plain, honest and straightforward.

During the summer of 2008, Dorothy Grace, at the age of 95, once again joined her helpmate in life.

While much could be written about Dorothy’s many attributes, one thing is certain: she was a woman filled with grace. It is fitting she would meet and marry a man who would bestow such a surname on such a woman.

So how are we to understand this word, “grace”?

I have always believed gracious people are bighearted, kind, compassionate, considerate, empathetic and loving.

Grace in a spiritual context is seen as unmerited divine assistance. Many times we are asked to emulate this virtue coming from God. Be gracious to those who we may view as undeserving of our kindness and compassion... our willingness to understand and consider . . . our willingness to be polite and well mannered.

It is good for our hearts and for our community to be strengthened by grace.

Unfortunately, the momentum of misplaced emotion and prejudice too often give way to ungracious behavior.

In 1943 Dorothy and Stanley “Jack” Grace purchased their farmstead in Ogema Township (east of Hinckley, Minn.). An ocean away, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who staunchly resisted Hitler’s unlimited rule, was being arrested by the Gestapo and placed in a German concentration camp.

Bonhoeffer wrote these words while in captivity, two years before he was executed by hanging in 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing:

“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation [the use of ambiguous expressions, especially in order to mislead or hedge] and pretense [insincere or false profession]; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes [those who hate or mistrust humankind], or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, and straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless [relentless] enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?”

I know Dorothy would have wished it so . . .

Former Cook County Commissioner Garry Gamble is writing this ongoing column about the various ways government works.

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