She was an unexpected miracle for her parents, and came into the world so quickly she was almost dropped. She brought energy and fresh perspective into the lives of everyone around her; she was a well of kindness and a fantastic friend.
As a small child, Dorothy loved to dress up. She shared her dress-ups with her dog, Toto, and any friends that would come to play. By age 3 she could swim well, and always loved to go to the pool or river. As she got older, she would bring home enormous wildflower bouquets to fill the house with vibrant color. In time, she began creating, as she called them, “concoctions” in the kitchen for everyone to try. Creativity was always the center of Dorothy’s approach. She was very strong-willed, and enjoyed having two rowdy older brothers who would always include her in whatever activities the day held. Dorothy was very proud when she was able to participate in her hometown celebration, the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty Pageant, as a prairie flower, with younger girls twirling around her like petals.
Though she was originally, and primarily, a Kansas girl, Dorothy lived in many different places throughout her life. In Michigan, she learned to read in a private Christian school, sledded down steep hills in the deep snow, ice-fished with her father and brothers at a private lake access, helped her grandmother in the garden, jumped off a bridge into a cool river, and ate fresh venison from the woods around her home. She started the first grade in Pennsylvania, where she would ride her new bike to the baseball games down the street just to get sunflower seeds. Before long, it was back to Kansas, to a town named Medicine Lodge only 30 miles from where she was born.
Dorothy loved to be outside, especially when the sun was shining and the air was warm. She was the first one ready for any camping trip, and would always be pulling us out the door for the day’s adventure. Throughout her youth she was very close with her maternal grandfather Howard Shelton, whom she called Papa, and with whom she took routine trips out for ice cream. With her mother and Papa, she was able to enjoy vacations to California almost every year to see the ocean and visit her extended family. She even got to visit Yellowstone National Park, and saw black bears and bison so close she could almost touch them. The wild creatures and wonders of the earth dazzled her.
Her little dog Toto was only one of her many animal friends, among them a cat with no tail named Bunny, a three-foot-long Savannah monitor named Charlie, and an iguana named Geezer. Dorothy always had a close connection with the living things around her, and animals always treated her gently, as a friend.
She was the only little girl in the house, and she and her mother developed an incredibly close relationship. Dorothy always loved to stay home, and really felt most comfortable with her mom around. She was rugged enough to run around and enjoy the outdoor activities her father loved, but snuggled on the couch between both parents, laughing with her whole family, was where she really belonged.
In school, Dorothy was always immediately noticed by all her teachers for her creativity and her excellent performance in all things academic. Her grades were impeccable throughout her life, and the academic part of her education was never a problem for her. It was hard, however, to motivate her to keep going to school on a daily basis. She dreaded the other children, not all of them but almost always someone. She was so different, such a completely unusual person that she never managed to escape the hurtful words no matter where her family moved.
Without the many character traits that made her a target, Dorothy would not have been who she was. She was a brilliantly talented, artistic person who loved acting, singing, dancing, cooking, writing, and drawing pictures and words to cover her walls. It seemed that all her creative energy would just bubble out of her; she couldn’t keep from sharing all the ideas and thoughts that would enter her mind.
When she came to Brookings, she was given all kinds of fresh opportunities to share her talent and energy. She immediately gained a place of prominence playing flute in the school jazz and advanced bands, even playing by invitation with the high school pep band while she was still in eighth grade. That year, she was also a member of the Azalea Dance Team.
In high school, she sang in Grace Notes, a girls’ choir, and went to a RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) camp during her sophomore summer. Dorothy received several certificates from RYLA recognizing her leadership abilities, and she never shied away from leadership roles. She was not afraid of other people criticizing her ideas, because she knew she was able to deliver on promises.
Dorothy had strong opinions about the need to directly affect our world in a positive way. She believed strongly in gay rights, human rights, and even the rights of Planet Earth itself. She knew that people deserve to be who they are, and to be happy. She formed, and led, We Can Make a Change, a student group dedicated to improving the lives of the people around them. With other friends from the high school, she organized a trip to several care homes in the area to deliver handmade Valentine’s Day cards to the residents. She also spearheaded the youth effort on the following Earth Day with her group, actually donning the gloves and trash bags required to make real change happen in her community.
She had a strong interest in, and talent for, acting, and was active in both her school and community drama programs. She had strong roles in Disney’s Jungle Book, Sylvia, Robin Hood, Laugh Lines, and every talent show and Milli Vanilli contest in which she was given a chance to perform. She thoroughly enjoyed acting alongside her father in Lady Pirates of the Caribbean. Even without a lead role, when Dorothy was on stage, everyone knew it.
During her final year in school, she was enrolled in Honors English, as well as multiple concurrent-credit college classes. She had already taken the PSAT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) and the ASVAB, (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test), and her 92 score on the latter would have had the military jumping to get her. She participated in speech and debate, and had written for the school newspaper. Dorothy was an excellent journalist and fiction writer, and was fearless of speaking in front of others. She had become well-known in her school for her outrageous Spirit Week outfits, wowing her friends and teachers alike with the craziest garb she could put together.
Dorothy was a big fan of Glee and American Idol, and always wanted to sing in a reality project like that. Her dreams were big and fantastic; she knew she had the whole world ahead of her. Big dreams, big hopes, and big emotions came with a terrible price, and on March 26, 2012, everything became too much to bear. Sometimes our world is just too complicated and painful for someone who feels it all so intensely. For those closest to her, her life was a brilliant flash, leaving a beautiful photograph in our minds for the rest of our lives.
Dorothy is survived by her mother and father, David and Jennifer Shull; as well as brothers Daniel and Andrew; sister Lisa; nephews Demarion Morris and Justin Rucker, and Andrew E. Shull. She also left many uncles, aunts, cousins, and extended family too far-flung and numerous to name.
Dorothy’s memorial service is tentatively scheduled for April 14. Venue for the memorial will be announced.
Submitted by the family.