In the early morning hours of April 29, 2013, Dorothy McLaughlin’s Lord and Savior Jesus Christ wrapped her in his arms and took her home to heaven.
Dorothy was born May 6, 1926, in Kansas City, Mo., to Earl Henry Klopfenstine and Hazel Loucille Allen. She was the oldest of five children, and due to the early death of her father and her mother’s medical illnesses, at the age of seven Dorothy had to assume the responsibility for the housework and care of her younger siblings. Dorothy graduated at the age of 16 from East High School, Kansas City, Mo.
At the age of 20, Dorothy’s first marriage produced two children, Margi (Margaret) Carol Gant, and Michael Lynn Gant. The family moved to California, and Dorothy began her professional career as the Chief Bookkeeper for Ehrhart & Associates, Inc., Engineers & Constructors; and then served as the Office Manager for Relief Printing Corporation of California. During this time she divorced her first husband, becoming a single parent, working to provide home and educational opportunities for her children.
Three years later, Dorothy met and subsequently married her “soul mate,” Patrick Michael McLaughlin, resulting in a blended family of five children. Her marriage to Patrick later afforded her the opportunity to pursue her life-time goal of higher education. In 1976, at the age of 50, Dorothy received her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from California State University, Los Angeles; and in 1987, at the age of 61, her Master Degree in Business from Columbia Pacific University, San Rafael, Calif.
Following Patrick’s retirement, in 1976 Dorothy and Patrick moved to Billings, where their daughter, Margi, was working and completing her Master Degree in Elementary Education and School Counseling. As always, Dorothy immersed herself in the Billings community, her new home, identifying needs and opportunities to make a difference for those who were “forgotten, invisible or suffering from discrimination.” She volunteered as a Pink Lady at St. Vincent’s Hospital, and served as the volunteer director at the Southside Senior Citizens Center. Working with Agnes Crow, they co-founded Senior Helping Hands, Inc., an organization assisting senior citizens to remain in their homes.
In 1977, because of her work in the community and her business background, Dorothy was selected to establish “from scratch,” the NRTA/AARP Senior Community Service Employment Program in Montana. The program territory extended from Livingston, to Ekalaka, and south to the Wyoming border, and included both the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations. Her efforts resulted in national recognition for the Montana program, an Outstanding Director award, and an invitation from First Lady Rosalyn Carter for tea at the White House. She was also transferred to the Dallas, Texas, site to assist in establishing their program. Dorothy retired in 1987 to return home to the gorgeous blue sky in Billings.
During her tenure as Director of the Senior Community Service Employment Program, Dorothy initiated once-per-month breakfast meetings for professional women in the community to provide opportunities to network, exchange ideas and to “just talk with one another.” The breakfast meetings were held in the Northern Hotel’s dining room. The group soon outgrew the dining room, and in 1980, Dorothy conceived the idea for and co-founded the Montana Association for Female Executives (MAFE). Dorothy served at the first MAFE president.
Dorothy initially enrolled in the Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University Billings) graduate program to pursue a degree in sociology. Her research for materials for a paper on Alberta Bair’s life and contributions to the Billings’ community resulted in frustration and disbelief … very little in-depth documentation was found in any of the Montana libraries and museums. This experience served as the catalyst for Dorothy’s biggest dream … “To establish a museum for the preservation of women's history: To provide for study and research activities and for the dissemination of information about women's history; To facilitate the understanding of historical processes and events from the perspective of women; To accept and display artifacts which depict or illustrate the evolution of women's history.” Dorothy’s unwavering work resulted in reaching this ultimate goal, and in 1995, with support from Chancellor Ronald Sexton, the Museum of Women’s History (MOWH) opened in a small room next to the mailroom in the basement of Eastern Montana College McMullen Hall. The MOWH soon outgrew its first home, and relocated to the 2822 Third Ave. N., where it continues to operate. Feats and Faces, Chronicles of 26 Billings Women with Photographs (1994) is one of the first books placed in the MOWH research library. Conceived by Dorothy, funded by the American Association of University Women, with interviews conducted and stories written by Billings’ AAUW members, Feats and Faces “represents a significant step in recording a small portion of Billings women’s history and achievement.”
Dorothy is survived by her daughter, Margi Gant of Billings; her sister, Maxine Wilson of California; her half-sister, Ginger Guevara; and her nieces, Betty Wilson, Beverly Lambert and Louise Liewald, all of California; and longtime friend, George Sherman of Billings.
Heartfelt thanks to the doctors, nurses and staff at St. Vincent Healthcare, St. John’s Lutheran Ministries, and Rocky Mountain Hospice, for your kindness and compassionate care.
Memorials may be sent in Dorothy McLaughlin’s name to the Museum of Women’s History, 2822 Third Ave. N., Billings, MT 59101.
A celebration of Dorothy McLaughlin’s life will be held on Thursday, May 9, at 11 a.m. at Cremation & Funeral Gallery, 29 Eighth St. W., Billings, MT 59101.
Arrangements are by Cremation & Funeral Gallery. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.cfgbillings.com through “Our Families.”