When Dorothy was only seven years old, her father died. This tragic event changed the trajectory of Dorothy’s life, and today is reflected in an award – the Andrea Block Memorial Scholarship – Dorothy established to honour her widowed mother.
The eldest daughter of Niels and Andrea Block, Dorothy moved with her family to the Millicent area from Washington in 1920. The family was together on their new homestead for only a few months when tragedy struck and Niels passed away at age 31 from pneumonia and complications of an infection.
While other family members came to help manage the farm, Dorothy’s mother and aunt purchased the Millicent Hotel as a means of supporting the young family. Andrea ran the hotel until 1939, when she fell ill. Andrea passed away in 1942, when Dorothy was 28.
Today, Dorothy’s family, including nieces Kristine Smith and Berna Moss, say Dorothy often shared many early memories of life at the hotel – stories of travellers, home-cooked meals and supportive locals.
Kristine says, however, Dorothy was most profoundly affected by her mother’s strength to rise up and overcome adversity – something that was well known throughout the family.
“Dorothy spoke frequently and admiringly of her mother, who was left as a young woman with two small children to raise and provide for when there were no social safety nets to help her,” says Berna.
Kristine agrees: “Dorothy learned a great deal about perseverance, tenacity and independence watching her mother run a hotel while ensuring her children were educated and well-cared for. She had a great deal of respect for her mother.”
Andrea’s influence in Dorothy’s life created an independent and adventurous woman who went on to engage life in a variety of ways: obtaining her teaching certificate, pursuing an accounting degree, serving in a factory in Eastern Canada during World War II, working as an X-ray technician and operating a dress shop.
Dorothy married in 1952 and farmed with her husband for years in the Claresholm area before moving to Lethbridge. They operated a hotel downtown for several years before selling it and purchasing one in Waterton. An avid gardener and pianist, Dorothy was active in her church and with her family, travelling with her nieces and cousins well into her 80s.
Throughout her life, Dorothy never forgot her roots, or the people of the Eastern Irrigation District. When Dorothy passed away in 2010, she honoured both her mother and those who rallied around her family in those early years with a bequest to the University of Lethbridge in her will.
The Andrea Block Memorial Scholarship is given annually to a student from the Eastern Irrigation District, where Dorothy spent her formative years. The first recipient of the award, 19-year-old mathematics major Nolan McIntyre, couldn’t be more grateful.
“When I first received the letter saying that I had received the award, I was extremely pleased,” he says. “Then, when I received notice that I was the first recipient of the award I felt – and still feel for that matter – very blessed and thankful.”
Originally from Rosemary, Alta., Nolan says gifts designated for students from rural Alberta are greatly needed.
“Gifts such as the Andrea Block Memorial Scholarship are a huge help,” says Nolan. “The award helped pay for my education and, as a result, my whole first semester was paid for and I could focus on my academics.”
With her gift, Dorothy is able to pay forward the help her family once received – for generations to come.