Mastering the Art of Staying Connected
To Ollie Dorr '49, it's all about family, friends, community, service,
Ollie Dorr '49 lives alone now, in a lovely small house at the head of a cul de sac outside New London. She is an octogenarian in years only, her vibrant and busy life more typical of someone decades younger.
On meeting her, one senses her energy, her eclectic tastes, her old-school manners wrapped around a down-to-earth personality. She is charming, candid, artistic.
And though she lives alone, she is not solitary, for her life is and always has been filled with connections – to family, friends, music, work, and the big beautiful world outside her door.
Ollie grew up as Olive McMorran, fifth of seven children, in a house on Main Street in Lincoln, New Hampshire. She and her five sisters all sang in the church choir – in fact, they were the choir.
She and her five sisters all sang in the church choir – in fact, they were the choir.
Ollie was class salutatorian in high school, a gifted soprano who yearned to study music at Boston Conservatory. She'd learned some piano in Lincoln, but the town lacked an excellent music teacher, and instead Ollie followed a classmate to Keene Teachers College to get her degree in education.
At KTC, she sang in the chorus, soloed in concerts, and prepared to teach third grade. On graduation, she took a teaching job in Claremont. "I loved the third-grade curriculum," she said. "And in my class, we spent a lot of time on music."
While teaching, Ollie met and married Richard Hadley, and they raised their three children in a big house on a hill in Claremont. She sang with the Claremont Choral Society and in the Newport Area Choir.
Richard Hadley was in the lumber business. He died suddenly at age 50, leaving Ollie and their children with three lumberyards to operate. "Our son Steven was just out of Champlain College, and he and I ran the lumberyards in Keene, Lebanon, and Claremont," Ollie said.
They sold the business in the early 1980s, and Ollie kept busy with family activities and volunteer work. She served on the local hospital board and in Beta Sigma Phi, but her special love was the Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO), an organization founded in 1869 that raises money to help women finish college. PEO's state chapter, which Ollie has served for 33 years, raises money with "everything from bake sales to big donors," as Ollie says, and helps several young women each year. "It's women helping women," she says with satisfaction.
Throughout it all, she stayed in good voice through her weekly choir rehearsals. One day a neighbor who attended South Congregational Church in Newport mentioned that they were performing Brahms' Requiem, and asked Ollie to sing with them.
In the choir was George A. Dorr Jr., who had already sung at South Church for 42 years at the time Ollie joined. He was 10 years older than Ollie, a widower, and president of the Dorr Woolen Company in Guild, a major employer in the area.
This year we made a queen-size quilt in the Autumn Leaves pattern that raised $2,670 in ticket sales at the church bazaar!
George and Ollie fell in love and were married, and they moved to a house perched near the top of Mount Sunapee. Ollie said the view "went on forever. It was gorgeous – you could see all of the Green Mountains, and beyond to New York."
George was retired by then, and he and Ollie began a new life together focused on travel and service. "George had often traveled overseas to help negotiate international trade agreements, and when he retired, he joined the International Executive Service Corps.
We traveled all over the world – Slovenia, Czech Republic, Uruguay, Estonia, Russia – and would stay for three months each time. I taught English to working women in Slovenia and the Czech Republic, and George worked in mills to help get their businesses going," Ollie said.
"We also traveled for pleasure, and went to New Zealand five times. It is the most beautiful country I've ever seen. We climbed every mountain. I also love the people there, although as you know there are more sheep than humans! We once saw two sheep dogs and two drovers herding 4,000 sheep. Every mile you have to travel to get there is worth it. We also spent three weeks in Australia, which included seats in the top row of the Sydney Opera House. You could hear every note – it is a beautiful opera house."
Ollie also discovered another love after she married George. "I started quilting when I married him, and I still love every minute of it. Five of us in our church get together every Tuesday afternoon to work on projects. This year we made a queen-size quilt in the Autumn Leaves pattern that raised $2,670 in ticket sales at the church bazaar!"
Ollie has a workroom downstairs dedicated to her quilting. She made a beautiful hand-pieced quilt in the Honeycomb pattern in 2002 for their Mount Sunapee bedroom, and she has made quilts for each of her 14 grandchildren.
"The youngest are Ben and David, who are twins. They recently asked me for new quilts, and I realized they were still using quilts I'd made them when they were little!" So Ollie is hard at work on a new pattern called Nine Patch Scramble for the boys.
In 2005, Ollie and George had to admit that they were having trouble navigating their 1,750-foot driveway on the mountain and decided to move to a smaller home in New London, bringing with them beloved pieces of needlepoint and other family heirlooms, as well as tables and cabinets George had built.
They lived there only a week before George became ill. He died at age 89 in New London, eulogized as an innovator in the textile industry and a tireless volunteer.
Ollie stays as involved as ever with her family and friends. She has a Facebook page, and e-mails her grandchildren often. She quilts, volunteers every Friday at the Newport thrift shop (to benefit local health causes), goes to PEO meetings, sings in the choir, and attends live performances at the Lebanon Opera House.
"I also stay connected to the Golden Circle," she says. "I go to the lunches every year and look forward to the reunion in June." As anyone who knows her can attest, Ollie has mastered the art of staying connected.