Doris Jean Meinzen Dray
July 19, 1921 - February 20, 2017
Though her given name was Doris Jean I knew her as Aunt Dot, a nickname given to her when she was a child. She and her family lived not far from my house in Mineral Ridge until I was eight or nine. I spent many hours at her home playing with her daughter, my cousin Belinda. I grew up during a time when aunts did not hesitate to teach, train, and correct other children in the extended family. I can't say she was like a second mother but in many ways she taught me just as she taught her daughter.
Until her death on Monday Aunt Dot was not only the oldest family member on my mother's paternal side of the family, including among cousins, she was also the last living relative descended from Henry and Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen who was born with the Meinzen surname. Her death closes a generation in our family.
I became somewhat interested in family history when my mother was still alive and asked her many questions but a number of years after her death I became more devoted to family history research. Aunt Dot became my go-to person when I had questions about individuals, relationships, locations, etc. She was the third youngest of four sisters, born the year after her grandmother, Elizabeth Armitage Meinzen, died and four and a half years before her grandfather, Henry Meinzen died. She had no memories of her grandmother, only a few of her grandfather, but she remembered many of her father's brothers and sisters and was able to fill in absences in records. She and her sisters lived near her mother's parents, Edward Jesse and Mary Thompson Bickerstaff. Aunt Dot was able to add anecdotal information to help bring those ancestors to life.
Knowing that I was a collector of postcards, Aunt Dot saved those she received and sent them on to me. But not only postcards -- even better than postcards -- she sent snippets of memories of the experiences of her childhood and young adult life. She did not write a conventional personal history but amongst those bits of paper, the story of her life is recorded. She told me many years ago that when she thought of a childhood memory, she wrote it down in a journal or notebook. I hope her son or one of her grandchildren finds and saves the notebook(s).
Though she'd become disinterested in food and eating (nothing tasted good, she said), Aunt Dot was doing well until this past Thanksgiving when she fell and broke a leg. She was unable to stand, sit, or walk. Even during the months after the fall she seemed in relatively good spirits. Like any good Meinzen she carried on without complaint. But this past Thursday she took a turn for the worse and was gone days later.
I will miss our phone conversations and her ready jokes, having someone to ask those pesky family history questions, and her packets in the mail. But most of all I will miss knowing she's there. She will be forever in my heart.
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