On Wednesday, March 30, 2005, the grand heart of Mrs. Dorothy Jean Dossey Creighton, aged 80 years, stopped beating, now and forever.
During her more than 20-year tenure as a teacher of grammar and literature at Springdale High School, Mrs. Creighton was a dedicated, enthusiastic, and sometimes fiery instructor who strove to instill in her students the mental discipline required for lucid and precise writing and to cultivate in them an appreciation for great works of literature.
Although teaching was truly her life's calling, she came to it relatively late after half a life spent in other careers. Even before being graduated from high school in her childhood home of Mount Ida, Arkansas, she answered her nation's call by enlisting in the Women's Army Corps in 1943, in which she served her country for the duration of World War II and beyond, ultimately attaining the rank of sergeant. Marriage and the birth of a son, Barry, followed, together with successive positions as an executive secretary, small business owner, and factory worker.
Mrs. Creighton finally answered the call of her own destiny in 1961 by enrolling in what was then called Henderson State Teachers College and completing a B.S.E. in Social Science and English in just two years, earning a 3.81 cumulative grade point average and ranking third in a graduating class of 174. She continued her academic career as a graduate student at the University of Arkansas, completing 27 hours of graduate study before accepting in 1966 a teaching position at Springdale High School, where she served as chairman of the English department for several years and continued teaching until she retired in 1987.
She spent her retirement modestly and quietly, reading voraciously, moving among a small circle of friends, and caring for her beloved dogs. At the time of her death she had been reading a biography of William Shakespeare, now never to be finished.
Friend and mentor to generations of students, Mrs. Creighton was possessed of a rigorous intellect and iron will, and while perhaps a rigid disciplinarian, she was also vastly sympathetic to her fellow humans and endlessly amused by their foibles and weaknesses, not least because she was keenly aware of her own. She was no stranger to fits of laughter or of outrage, but laughter usually won out in the end, if sometimes by just a hair. Surely it can be said that she lived life long and well, and went quickly and without suffering.
No doubt she would endorse concluding this remembrance of her by quoting a passage from one of her favorite poets, Walt Whitman.
I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
-- from "Song of Myself"
I've known Mrs. Creighton since 1968 when I was a student in her English class in Springdale, Arkansas, during what was I believe her third year as a teacher. Our acquaintence since then has been at times sporadic as we drifted this way and that through life, but we had become close again during the last four or five years. I'm surprised now by how many times I come across things I want to share with her, or things I want to ask her about. I guess I was doing that all along but didn't realize how much until she was gone.
About 10 years after I was her student, on the worst day of my life, on the day that my best friend and the love of my life, Debbie King, was murdered, Mrs. Creighton came and found me and drove me around to the places Debbie had lived, mostly I think as a way to talk about and remember her. Then she brought me into her home and listened to me cry and rave, and she tried to console me as best she could, although she realized that there was no consolation possible. Then she got me drunk enough so that I could sleep, and then she tucked me in. The next morning she went to work as always, to teach her students.
Last fall I named a little waterfall on Crooked Creek after her, although when I told her that she looked at me askance, no doubt because she was a little dubious that I could actually do that, but my reasoning was that even though I might be the only one to call it Creighton Falls, since no one else calls it much of anything, I win with a plurality of one. Now I think I'd like for it to be named not only for her but for her whole family, too; so I'd like to call it Dossey Falls instead. I think she would be pleased.