Dorothy Belle Whipple

by Terry Dyke

Dorothy Belle and Terry

Dorothy Belle and Terry

Dorothy Belle Whipple was my mother and probably the biggest stroke of luck in my life. D.B. was a gentle soul, but nevertheless an adventurer, leaving Texas and hitting the road to California in a brief first marriage, spending some undergraduate years in architecture at the University of Texas, and then the war years in New York City working as a hat designer in a fashion house while the young Captain Dyke joined Patton's armored horde in its push to Berlin.

As an army wife, she found that postwar Germany had much to offer by way of experiences, and she now had a toddler to share them with, which she did often. Such was the best part of my education -- her contagious enthusiasm for ideas and unpredictably interesting things about the world. Not only a parent to me, she was also mentor and friend, more or less in that order.

Dorothy Belle and Jack

Dorothy Belle and Jack

When she remarried later, it was to her college sweetheart Hubert Luckett, a magazine editor whose three high school age kids I joined to form the next generation of a suddenly large and lively blended family. Conversations around the dinner table turned out to be an essential piece of an ongoing and painless home schooling.

D.B. liked the creative "Berlin boarding house" atmosphere, and there were usually a couple of our offbeat high school friends somewhere in the house or gathered around the kitchen table at any given time, finding it more interesting than their other options. Young people liked her and liked talking to her, because she'd listen to you and take you seriously.

DB with fan

DB with fan

When we went off to college, D.B. still had young folks around, strays and eccentrics of one sort or another who would liven up the proceedings around the kitchen table when we came home for holidays or summer vacation. For quite a few years, a Russian concert pianist boarded and taught there for part of the week. Some years, there would be a foster kid in residence; others, maybe a contemporary who'd hit a flat spot in their post-college peregrinations and in need of a supportive place to stay for a couple of months while they got their proverbial stuff together.

D.B. was creative in a lot of ways, as evidenced in any number of projects always in various stages of completion, but perhaps most memorably in the words of the many people whose lives she touched and changed.