Dorothy Elsie Benz Dallas was a grand force of life. Dottie was an accomplished and highly lauded artist in watercolor and mixed media. She was the devoted mother of four, whom she taught the value of hard work, the importance of education, the thrill of modern art, and the meaning of true devotion through her 67 years of marriage to the love of her life, Dr. Donald P. Dallas. Born a New Yorker, she and Donald raised their children in New York and New Jersey, and then moved to The Plains, Virginia near her daughter and family in 2007. Dottie was proud of her six grandsons, to whom she loved reading stories when they were little, each of whom is a lucky beneficiary of her extraordinary artistic and intellectual DNA.
A lifelong lover of learning, she spoke German and read Latin. It was in 9th grade Latin class at Newtown High School in Elmhurst, New York, where a young man named Donald Dallas spied her from across the room. He knew a good thing when he saw it. They were married in 1952, when Donald was in his second year of medical school at Columbia (now Vagelos) College of Physicians and Surgeons.
She was graduated from Pratt Institute in 1950 with a certificate in Interior Design, and received her B.F.A. in 1978 and M.F.A. in 1982 from Pratt as well. In the '50s,The New Yorker ran an article about the emerging diversity in the field of architecture, quoting a Voorhees partner that they had "a large sprinkling of young women" along with "a very charming girl" who "is now a very vital part of our organization." Dottie was that charming girl.
Over her many years painting watercolors, she received countless awards, including the American Watercolor Society Millard Sheets Medal (2004), the New Jersey Watercolor Society Members Show 1st Prize (1981), and the Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club Zahn Award (1988) and Gold Medal (1998). She was a member of numerous prestigious art societies, including the Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Society, which she served as President from 1989 to 1992, and, as of 1985, New York's Salmagundi Club, one of the oldest and most esteemed art societies in the United States.
Dottie painted in an abstract style, referencing her subject matter obliquely. Her beautiful paintings included abstracts of the Palisades on the Hudson River, near her home in Englewood, New Jersey, the Cloisters, across the Hudson River, landscapes and objects in Santa Fe, and the countryside in England and Italy. Her art was luminous and inviting. One day she noticed a gallery visitor sitting on the floor in front of one of her paintings. The visitor said she couldn't stop staring at it. She bought it.
Her art was often rhythmic, echoing musical patterns and harmonies, informed by her lifelong love of music. A pianist, she loved to play Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven, as well as Christmas carols, which she sang gleefully out of key. She also loved the music of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and Love Potion No. 9 was a feature at many cocktail parties she and Donald hosted through the years. "Their" song was "Le Mer," preferably sung by Bobby Darrin.
Dottie had an unbridled competitive spirit, and mercilessly took lessons at every sport she and Donald played, including paddleball, tennis, and ice skating, which naturally led to her beating him in each of them. This indomitable spirit was one of the reasons Dotty lived until age 89, long after the onset of Alzheimer's 15 years ago. The other was the unflagging, devoted, and loving care of her husband, who never left her side, ever, for 67 years. Theirs is a love story that inspires all their children and grandsons like no other.
The family will be hosting a gathering in celebration of Dottie's grand life sometime in 2020. In the meantime, in lieu of flowers, her family welcomes donations to any organization supporting the search for a cure for Alzheimer's.