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Life Story / Obituary
With an infectious laugh and a warm smile, Dorie Stovall greeted each day as a gift and every person she met as a friend. Full of life, Dorie possessed a big personality that naturally drew people to her. Dorie was generous, kind, and quick to give of her time and talents in service to others. In her heart, all were welcome, valued, and loved. A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend, Dorie inspired all who were blessed to share time with her. Cherished by many, Dorie will long be remembered.
Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, 1930 beheld a power of hope that undulated in the hearts of many. With a natural drive to not just endure but thrive in the face of uncertainty, the nation continued to put one foot in front of the other to build a better future. Nowhere was there a greater sense of hope than in the Penn Avenue bedroom of Ed and Julia Geldhof as they welcomed their daughter Dorie into their hearts and family on May 24, 1930.
Dorie was a resident of Grand Rapids for her entire life, except for two years she spent as a toddler in Des Moines, Iowa, where her father tried to establish a Watkins distributorship during the height of the Great Depression, and two years in middle school in Muskegon, where her parents worked in factories to support the war effort during World War II.
Born with a natural affinity for people, Dorie was a social child. She loved talking and could strike up an engaging conversation with anyone, even the most committed curmudgeon. Dorie was always the first to welcome anyone new, and it was simply impossible for anyone not to feel welcome and cared for when sharing her good company. During the Depression-era, Dorie raised rabbits. She also spent much of her youth riding her bike and roller skating.
Dorie attended Eastern Avenue Grade School and proudly graduated Creston High School with the class of 1948. After graduation, she briefly worked rolling cigars at a local business, but then was hired to work at McInerney Spring & Wire Company.
Dorie’s next-door neighbor rode motorcycles and introduced her to a fellow motorcycle rider, Howard Stovall, the man who would become her husband. After a courtship that eventually overcame her mother’s reluctance to see Dorie with “that boy on his Harley Davidson,” Dorie and Howard happily married on October 13, 1951. They then traveled to Niagara Falls and New York City for their honeymoon. As Howard was in the process of setting up his own water well drilling business, they had to cut their honeymoon short, so that Howard could return to Grand Rapids to drill his first well. Even though Dorie never forgot having to shorten their honeymoon, Stovall Well Drilling would come to be a thriving business for 55 years.
The newlyweds spent three years living with Dorie’s parents on Penn Avenue. After their first child, Howard Lee, was born, in the same room Dorie and her younger brother entered the world, Dorie returned to work at McInerney. As Howard continued establishing his new business, well rigs, drilling equipment, pipes, and other materials were shoe-horned into the small backyard on Penn Avenue.
Eventually, the couple purchased a larger piece of land on the then-outskirts of town, on Four Mile Road NE. A new house was completed in time for the birth of their second child, Deborah. The larger piece of land next to their home allowed for vegetable gardens, a few horses, and many dogs (usually German Shepherds) over the years. As the area continued to grow, the new houses sprouting around them provided water well drilling work for their growing business. As the company expanded, so too did the Stovall family. Soon a second daughter, Pamela, and then a second son, Dennis, joined the family.
Dorie relished in motherhood and creating a loving home for her family. Nearly a lifelong member at Plainfield United Methodist Church, Dorie consciously centered her parenting in unwavering faith. As her children were growing up, she taught Sunday School, volunteered as a scout and 4-H leader, helped at their schools, and created wonderful traditions they would forever cherish. The family enjoyed camping and “catching sun” during summer day trips to Grand Haven. Later, despite not knowing how to swim, she would make a ritual of relaxing with a book on a raft in the pool. Dorie gave each of her children chores to teach them responsibility and afford them pride in contributing to the family.
It’s no surprise, with Dorie’s love for people, that the Stovall home often opened its doors for entertainment and fellowship. With her signature big black hair and big jewelry, Dorie greeted her guests with enthusiasm. Whether playing cards, having pool parties or laughing it up in the finished basement, Dorie knew how to create a good time for all; she listened with sincerity, saw the best in everyone, and made others feel that they were the most interesting person she had ever met.
Husband Howard, a proud hillbilly from Missouri, introduced Dorie to country music, and in the early 1960s they both joined the fan club of an up-and-coming country music star, Buck Owens. Dorie served proudly for many years as vice-president and then president of the Buck Owens Fan Club. In this role, she made many trips to the annual Fan Fair in Nashville and to Buck’s Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, California. Dorie eventually closed the fan club in 1981 at Buck’s request, when he decided to reduce his touring and recording schedule.
Dorie loved to travel, and she visited sites all over the United States, including two trips to Hawaii. She was additionally blessed to travel internationally. Her adventures took her to such places as France, England, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Egypt, Kenya and Tanzania, Costa Rica, Columbia, Ecuador, and Brazil. Though Howard didn’t like flying, he was happy when someone else would accompany Dorie on her trips. It became a family tradition to celebrate each of their children’s graduations with a trip with Mom to any destination of their choice. Perhaps her favorite of these trips was to Africa, where her love of animals was rewarded with spectacular close encounters.
A woman who easily found joy in just about everything, Dorie especially loved Christmas time. She delighted in elaborate decorations, picking out and giving gifts, and annual visits to Frankenmuth. She and Howard loved going for motorcycle rides, snowmobiling in the winter, and attending the races at the Comstock Park Speedrome. Dorie also found happiness in creating a variety of ceramic decorations for her home, especially the nativity set and poolside ducks she lovingly made. Dorie also loved to read and particularly enjoyed sharing her love for books with family and friends.
Without a doubt, Dorie’s family was her greatest joy, and she made sure they knew that they were the most important and wonderful part of her life. As her children grew into adulthood and began families of their own, Dorie’s joy grew too. She wanted lots of grandchildren and adored those that she was blessed to have. She was a very hands-on grandmother whose love and pride was always evident. As the kids grew older, she loved to play cards and dominos. Dorie and Howard shared a wonderful 57-year marriage that proved an excellent example for those around them. Howard simply adored her, and Dorie missed him every day after he passed away in 2009. Despite her heartache, Dorie continued to live each day fully. She loved to go out to eat or have people in for coffee. She also spent a good amount of time talking on the phone, calling friends and family to “update you on…”
Surely, it is difficult to imagine life in the absence of Dorie’s beautiful presence. May we find much comfort in our many treasured memories as well as the deep knowing that Dorie’s legacy lives on in each of our lives. With each bright-eyed and warm “hello,” we greet a stranger, Christmas decoration we set out, adventure we take, and day we welcome with joy, we celebrate the many ways Dorie gifted us. And, in so doing, we keep her spirit alive and inspiring others as she so inspired us.
Doris (Dorie) Ann Stovall, died peacefully in the comforts of her home on January 14, 2020,
Dorie was preceded in death by her husband and soul mate Howard, her parents Ed and Julia Geldhof, older sister, Betty Jane, (who died at childbirth), and son-in-law Phil Sweeney. Dorie is survived by her four children, Howard Lee (Audrey), Deborah Sweeney, Pamela, and Dennis, her brother Alan (Vicki) Geldhof, three granddaughters, Emily (Tim) Sheard, Sarah (Ryan) Potter, and Allison Stovall, five great-grandchildren, and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
The service to celebrate Dorie’s life will be held on Saturday, January 18, 2020, at 11 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – 1833 Plainfield Ave NE. Friends are invited to visit with her family at the funeral home on Friday from 4-7 PM. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Faith Hospice are appreciated. To read more about her life, to share a memory or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com