Dorcas Robson, 96, slipped off this mortal coil on July 27, 2020, in Santa Barbara, California, where she had lived since 1956. (No, she didn’t have a middle name.) Her body finally wore out, for reasons related to the number of years she filled with family, friends, teaching, travel, and sport, mostly golf. Due to her extensive connections in the Santa Barbara community, it was common to randomly encounter someone who was pleased to recognize her: this remained true to her very last moments.
Dorcas was born in 1924 in Evanston, Illinois, to parents William Wallace Robson, Sr., and Ruth Wright Robson. She grew up with three brothers in Winnetka, Illinois, and graduated from New Trier High School in 1942. She attended Western College for Women, in Oxford, Ohio, and then transferred to and graduated from National College of Education, in Evanston, Illinois. This prepared her for a long and distinguished elementary school teaching career. She mostly taught kindergarten, with some forays into first and second grades. After student teaching in Glencoe and Winnetka, Illinois, she taught in Long Beach, California; Des Plaines, Illinois; for a number of years in Skokie, Illinois—a favorite stint; and for many years in Santa Barbara. As far as we can reconstruct, she taught at the “old” Roosevelt School near the Mission; the “old” Lincoln School, now a farmer’s market; and Cleveland School, from which she retired. Always responsive to her students, in her later teaching years she began learning Spanish to communicate better with them. Among the organizations she supported were Santa Barbara nonprofits the Family Service Agency and the Music Academy of the West.
Although she also skiied and occasionally sailed with friends, Dorcas had a long-standing love of golf, despite early discouragement from playing the game. When she began to play during her senior year in high school, her father didn’t want her to play at Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette, Illinois—of which he was at times president and where he himself played with what we recall as a 3 handicap—because it was “a man’s game.” An early publication about the club stated, “Westmoreland has been noted for its effort to promote an interest in golf among women and junior members of the family and its liberal attitude in the arrangement of time for women’s golf events.” Nonetheless, he made her go to the Skokie Playfield golf course in Winnetka instead. As a teacher, she would travel with friends during spring breaks to golf in different locations. She said, and we can hear her voice in this, “We weren’t riding in carts then. We pulled carts.” After moving to California, she became an active member of the Montecito Country Club. Her father had died before she won the women’s championship at Montecito in 1993 and proved him wrong about the “man’s game.”
Another recurring theme in her life was travel. She covered the territory between Illinois and California many times, both on the ground and in the air. She frequently traveled with another teacher, or an old friend from Western, or a golfing buddy. Her first trip to Europe lasted eleven weeks and covered, by car, Paris, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, and more—she wasn’t sure she would have another chance. She and her friend returned to New York City by boat, where her parents met them; she said that was good, because they were running out of money.
Over the years, Dorcas took several trips to Scotland and England (staying in hostels). She also traveled to various places in the U.S. and Mexico, and spent a month in Spain and Portugal (staying in pensiones). On the latter trip, the windshield on the rental car broke in a storm, and Dorcas and her golfing-and-travel buddy took turns, one driving in the rain while the other cowered in the back seat. The trips to England and Scotland involved hiking and genealogical research. Dorcas’s last trip to Scotland occurred right after Princess Diana was married, and she sat behind the royal couple in church when they returned from their honeymoon.
Multiple dogs and cats shared her life (notably, in California, pugs and corgis), culminating in her beloved cat Patches, who lived with her in the community at Valle Verde, where they both spent their final years. Dorcas’s family is enormously grateful to the people of Valle Verde, who helped Dorcas have a welcoming home and a soft landing at the end.
The last of her generation, Dorcas leaves a number of younger relatives. Her five nieces include Deborah Robson (Colorado), Meg Robson Mahoney (Jake; Washington), Sharon Robson, Joelle Robson Heinrich (John), and Carol Robson (all Illinois). Cousins include Ann Richardson and Sally Richardson (both Hawaii) and Jane Richardson (Oregon). Great-nieces and -nephew are Rebekah Robson-May; Corey Caitlin Mahoney (Jon Fuchs); and Conor Robson Mahoney (Ashley Sirls). Her great-grandnephew is Elliot Fuchs. She was preceded in death by her parents; her three brothers, William Wallace Robson, Jr., Daniel Wright Robson, and John Henry Robson, and sisters-in-law, Allene Reich Robson, Patricia (Patti) Dingle Robson, and Freida Davis Robson; and a nephew, Douglas Wright Robson. This comparatively full relationship data honors Dorcas’s extensive interest in family history and may serve as an aid to future researchers.
Due to covid-19, there will be no service; she probably wouldn’t want one anyway, although remembering her and doing something nice for someone younger would be appropriate. Her ashes will rest at Rosehill Cemetery, in Chicago, alongside many family members. Donations in her memory can be made to your favorite charity, or to Best Friends Animal Society, https://bestfriends.org/.