With the dignity she exhibited throughout her life, Dorothy June Brennan Riceci, 92, died Friday, Aug. 6, 2010, at Royal Plaza Retirement and Care Center.
Dorothy was born Feb. 3, 1918, to John William and Elizabeth Maude Dugard Brennan in Oakland, Calif., where her father worked in the shipyards during World War I. Originally from Pocatello, Dorothy's parents, then just a young couple, decided to return home in 1919 at the end of the war, and contacted their parents that they'd be arriving by train. The grandparents saw young Maude carrying baby Dorothy as she stepped down to the platform and were prepared to scold John for making her carry the baby, when they saw that he was also carrying an infant - Dorothy's beloved little brother, Bob. John and Maude hadn't bothered to let their families know that they'd had another baby just 16 months after the first - Dorothy guessed it was a bit "shameful" to them.
In Pocatello, John Brennan started his own construction business, using the skills he learned from Dorothy's stepgrandfather, L.P. Holmes. Brennan Construction continues to thrive to this day, owned and managed by Dorothy's brother Bob until his death, and now by his son Jack.
Helen Darling Stoaks, Dorothy's childhood friend with whom she remained close until Helen's death, kept written memories of their childhood together. The girls' mothers knew each other through their involvement in Eastern Star and made sure the two little girls met the first day of elementary school at Emerson School in Pocatello. So close were the two girls that at one point they even shared a boyfriend named Roy. Helen remembers that the Brennan home was a meeting place for all the girls in the neighborhood. They would take their boyfriends, unannounced, for Sunday dinner, and "Mrs. B" and "Pops Brennan" welcomed them all, feeding and entertaining them. Helen fondly recalled one sleepover when there were four girls in one bed.
After Dorothy left Pocatello and her brother had joined the Army during World War II, Helen's father, a widower, passed away. Helen recalled, "Mrs. Brennan was the first person at our door, asking me to come live at their house since I was now alone. This I did and remained with them through World War II, still dragging boyfriends home."
Word has it that as a child Dorothy was a little slip of a tomboy, with blond hair and as Irish as Paddy's pig. She was a happy child, full of energy and thoroughly enjoying growing up in Pocatello.
During high school she was active in the school band, playing the clarinet and participating in all of the school concerts. She and Helen were very active in Bethel No. 1 of Job's Daughters. Dorothy was elected marshal in the ninth grade and then served two and a half years as a line officer. In her junior year she advanced to Honored Queen, a high point of her high school activities and an omen of all the honors she would receive in later years.
Dorothy graduated from high school in Pocatello in 1935. She attended Idaho State University for one year, and then spent two years at the College of Saint Mary-of-the-Wasatch in Salt Lake City. She was a business major at both schools and recalls having to wear black robes to church with white, starched collars on Sundays at St. Mary's, even though she wasn't Catholic. Dorothy and two of her girlfriends from Pocatello who were at school with her would put the white collars on their heads, mimicking the nuns and having their pictures taken in prayerful poses - much to her father's chagrin when he saw them.
Upon leaving St. Mary-of-the-Wasatch, Dorothy moved to Boise to work for former Boise Mayor and U.S. Sen. James P. Pope, in his 1938 bid for re-election. After the colorful senator's defeat, Dorothy returned home to Pocatello. She worked for the National Youth Organization for a bit, and then was secretary to the manager of the movie theaters in town, where she had worked as an usher during high school. But she got restless, wanted to see more of the world, and got on a train for San Francisco.
Her mother warned her that she'd "get the fleas" in San Francisco, and to be careful, but when she interviewed at the Bank of America (some would say the "real" Bank of America, which recently had changed its name from the Bank of Italy by its founder, A.P. Giannini), they immediately hired her and then sent her to Monterey, Calif., to work at its branch there. There was no opportunity to get fleas in San Francisco. When she got off the train in Monterey she asked the taxi driver where she could stay and he took her to the Monterey Hotel, where she did indeed "get the fleas."
Her first day at work she told her coworkers about "the fleas," and they told her about a boarding house in town that might have an opening. That's when she moved to Mama King's. Mama King was a Portuguese widow who took in boarders to augment her income, and about 15 young people lived there. Dorothy remembers her time in Monterey as some of the happiest of her life. First of all, Monterey was bustling with activity because of the huge influx of draftees at Fort Ord. But the best part was that for some time, Dorothy was the only woman living at Mama King's!
As one can imagine, she lacked neither attention nor male companionship. In fact, if some boy outside their little circle would call on Dorothy, he was immediately distracted so her pals could let the air out of the poor guy's tires, or wire it with a smoke bomb. One of the boarders living at Mama King's with Dorothy was a young man with the thoroughly fascinating name, Fioravanti Gaspare Guerrino Riceci. The son of Italian immigrants, he was better known as Ted, after a popular bandleader at the time, Ted Fiorito. Ted also worked at the Bank of America, not only to conduct banking business, but also to serve as translator for the large Italian community living in Monterey. Mostly fishermen and cannery workers, they welcomed someone who could help them with their business and who understood them.
Love blossomed between the two, and on Aug. 9, 1942, Ted and Dorothy were married at the Church of the Wayfarer in Carmel, Calif. By then, Dorothy had left the bank and was working at Fort Ord as secretary to one of the officers at post headquarters. The newlyweds moved into a new house in Pacific Grove, a bedroom community of Monterey, and Dorothy quit her job to start her new life.
She soon grew bored with nothing to do after the house was fixed up, so went back to work part time for the local credit bureau. Her next - and final - job was as a secretary with Seapride Packing Co., one of the historic sardine canneries on Cannery Row in Monterey. She stayed there until November of 1944, when she was five months pregnant with their first child. Ted and Dorothy's son, John Patrick (Pat) Riceci, was born March 10, 1945, in Carmel.
Two years later the young family packed up and moved to Pocatello, where Ted went to work for his father-in-law, who had built up a successful construction company and needed someone to manage his office. They stayed with Dorothy's parents for six weeks while a new house was being built for the young couple as a gift from her mother and father. But, after just six weeks in the new house, Brennan Construction was the successful bidder on a large project in Lewiston. Ted was given the assignment of managing the Lewiston office for Brennan Construction. The projects in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley included the original Gray Buick building, which today houses the Lewiston Tribune, and Webster, Whitman and Warner elementary schools in Lewiston, and the Whittier school in Clarkston. Dorothy and Ted remained in Lewiston for almost two years and immediately became involved in the community, joining Jaycees and Jaycettes.
At the end of the project the three Ricecis picked up stakes and moved yet again, this time to Riggins, where Ted managed the office of the sawmill, the Salmon River Lumber Co., owned by John Brennan and two partners. The mill was eventually sold to Brown Tie & Lumber Co., and the remnants of the burned-out mill can still be seen across the Salmon River from the Salmon Rapids Lodge.
Dorothy had become pregnant in 1948 while they lived in Lewiston. After moving to Riggins, she went to Pocatello for a visit, and while there went into labor just six months into her pregnancy. She delivered two babies, Michael Robert, who survived a bare 24 hours, and Molly, who lived a week. With much sorrow, the babies were laid to rest in Pocatello.
Back in Riggins, while Pat was growing and Ted was working hard, Dorothy opened a small gift shop that she ran out of the converted garage of their home. Ever the mover and shaker, Dorothy helped in the fight for water purification and control in the little community where she was so happy with her friends and the warmth a small town can provide. When Pat entered school she was very active in the PTA.
In 1950, Ted and Dorothy again learned that the family was expecting an addition. This time the event was bittersweet. Dorothy once again gave birth to premature twins, at seven months. Mary Bridget and Margaret Colleen were born on Nov. 1, 1950. Sweet baby Colleen lived just 24 hours, but Bridget fought the good fight in an incubator in Boise and pulled through remarkably well. "I knew right away that she was going to be a tall, sturdy girl," recalls Dorothy. Margaret Colleen is buried with her brother and sister in Pocatello.
And just one year later, on Nov. 30, 1951, along came Shannon Marie. She had a wound on her head and got a staph infection in the hospital, but she too refused to be daunted. She grew and flourished. Those three children and their families were the joy of Dorothy's life, but the three she and Ted left in Pocatello were forever in her heart.
In 1952, the family moved back to Pacific Grove, Calif., where Ted tried his hand at selling white goods and insurance. Pat was now old enough for Cub Scouts, so Dorothy became a den mother and once a week had a house filled with little boys, which pleased Bridget and Shannon very much. "We almost starved!" Ted once said, but Dorothy's father was very ill in Pocatello, so they decided to return to Idaho. They kept remembering how much they liked Lewiston, and all the friends they had made during their time there. So in 1954, Ted headed back to the Pacific Northwest to look for a job, landing one in short order with the Mead and Howard Lumber Co. in Juliaetta. Ted went to California, picked up his family, dropped the kids off in Riggins with friends, sent Dorothy on to Pocatello to be with her father and went to Lewiston. He found a house and started his new job.
The family was soon together again in what was to become their community, the center of their lives, for nearly 60 years. The children all went to St. Stanislaus School, where both Ted and Dorothy were very active. They were co-presidents of the PTA, and Dorothy was on the Lewiston PTA Council. So many offices did she hold, and so active was she, that she was honored in 1962 with a PTA life membership by the Lewiston Council. She also worked on many fundraising projects for the school and the church.
And then there was scouting. Pat was a member of Troop 162, where Dorothy was active in the Mothers Auxiliary. As Bridget and Shannon grew, Dorothy became involved, first in Camp Fire, and she soon had a group of Bluebirds. However, the girls didn't find the program to their liking, so they went into Girl Scouts. Dorothy and six little girls from St. Stanislaus founded Girl Scout Troop No. 405. Anita Pinch and Frances McCann were her able assistants and together they launched a program that is difficult to believe. The troop was outstanding and won many honors and distinctions, both individually and as a group. Some would say that the secret of their successes was that Dorothy never permitted a girl to advance in rank or receive an award unless Dorothy knew they had fulfilled the requirements set forth in the Girl Scout handbook, unaided, on time and as specified. Each girl felt such a sense of accomplishment that they were eager and willing to continue on. There is no doubt that Dorothy played a major role in the character development of these young women.
By the time the troop had reached 24 in number, long-range plans were made to take the troop to "Our Cabana," the International Girl Scout hostelry in Cuernavaca, Mexico. They planned and worked and saved for three years, despite the fact that many people thought this venture to be a pie-in-the-sky undertaking. But they sold cookbooks, held rummage sales, harvested, bundled and sold rhubarb, ran concession booths, held bazaars, sold snow cones, greeting cards and calendars, held car washes, hosted pancake suppers and planted and harvested a crop of potatoes - and they raised $5,000!! In 1966, they took that trip, had the time of their lives, and still remember just how much fun it all really was when they look back on those memories. Dorothy remembered the trip as the highlight of the many excursions she made over the years.
While doing all of these monumental tasks, Dorothy also served on the local Neighborhood Council representing Girl Scouts. She attended a national conference in Miami as a representative of the Columbia Basin Council in 1964. She got to be there when it was announced that the next National Girl Scout Encampment would be held in Farragut, Idaho.
In 1989, Ted and Dorothy were honored at the second annual Distinguished Citizens Award Banquet for lifetime contributions to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, and sponsored by the Lewis and Clark Council of the Boy Scouts of America. They were co-honorees with their good friends, Kermit and Betty Malcom, and their award was presented by other very good friends, Joe and Ann Silvestri.
In 1958, even before becoming so involved in scouting, Dorothy began her nearly 50-year volunteer work with the national Red Cross. She started as a Gray Lady, serving several years in the local hospital and frequently taking emergency calls in the middle of the night, where she'd have the responsibility of contacting local families that a child had been injured or had fallen ill while serving in the armed services. She was then asked to be a volunteer consultant. She trained others in 13 counties on how to recruit and train people in their communities for the role she knew so well, helping others. She became secretary of the Board of Directors of the Lewis-Clark Chapter, encompassing four counties, and was chief of staff in the headquarters office of the Lewiston chapter. And all of us saw her at every blood drive.
In a letter to Mrs. John (Elizabeth) Barnes, dated Jan. 13, 1967, David Bellemere, executive director of the Lewis-Clark Chapter of the American National Red Cross, had the following to say: "The volunteer performance of Dorothy Riceci with the Red Cross bespeaks of her role in the community as a humanitarian benefactor, not only with the Red Cross, but in many other areas where she contributes freely of her time and money helping others. ... She always does more than expected of her, achieves positive and thorough results, never giving 'broad brush treatment' or 'lip service'. She keeps an open mind, gives creative criticism and strives for constant improvement. She truly enjoys serving others."
In 1967, Dorothy was honored for her many volunteer activities by receiving the Community Service Award of the Lewiston Clarkston Altrusa Club. Dorothy was the 24th recipient of the distinguished recognition and proudly wore her Girl Scout uniform to the presentation celebration. Dorothy was a member of the Sarah Delano Mother's Club, and last, but certainly not least, she was also a stalwart founding member of the Lewis Clark Council on Youth, serving twice as president. And she played golf for several years too, but even then couldn't help but volunteer. She served as president of the Women's Golf Association at the Lewiston Golf and Country Club for one year.
Over the years Ted and Dorothy traveled a lot. In 1971, they went to Italy, where their first grandchild, Brannon Davis Riceci, had been born a year earlier. They arrived in time for his first birthday party, and to see him take his first step. With their son Pat and his wife JoAnn, they traveled to Pesaro and Riccione, where Ted saw cousins, aunts and uncles for the very first time in his life. Both of them fell in love with the country of Ted's ancestors, but Dorothy was also very proud of her Irish heritage. They traveled there as well, and also took trips to England, Scotland, Wales and Portugal.
Until very recently, Dorothy still got together with her bridge group twice a week, and for a time, even after Ted's death, stayed involved in the Italian Club, a group of local Italophiles who got together to speak the language and share favorite Italian dishes.
Dorothy lost Ted, her husband of 65 years, in 2007. She still listened for him when she got up in the morning and mourned his death in her own private and dignified way. He was always the love of her life.
Dorothy is survived by her three children, Patrick Riceci and Alice Scully of Boise, Bridget Riceci and David Byrne of Tucson, Ariz. and Shannon Riceci and Bill Squires of Boise; three grandchildren, Brannon Riceci of Portland, MacKenzie Pound Petersen and Ryan of Denver and Casey Pound of Boise; sisters-in-law Kathy Brennan of Pocatello and Lena DaPrato of Napa, Calif.; nieces and nephews Becky Brennan Vannatter and Kim of Houston, Jack Brennan of Pocatello, Jim Brennan and Karen of Austin, Texas, Pam Brennan Maguire and David of Pocatello and Robert DaPrato and Maria of Vallejo, Calif. In addition, Dorothy considered Amanda Thompson, daughter of Pat's former wife, the late JoAnn Thompson, and Amanda's partner, Lisa Laughter, as granddaughters, and their daughter Ellie as a great-granddaughter.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 65 years, Ted Riceci; parents, John W. Brennan and Maude Elizabeth Brennan; her brother, Robert Brennan; JoAnn Thompson; and her beloved infant children, Michael, Molly and Margaret Colleen.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church. In keeping with their fervent wishes, Dorothy and Ted will be buried together and next to their infant children, Michael, Mollie and Margaret Colleen, on Saturday at Mountain View Cemetery in Pocatello.
The family wishes to especially thank Dr. Dan McIntosh, M.D., for Dorothy's medical care over the years, Lynae Gibbs, Dorothy's caregiver, for the kind and loving care she provided to Dorothy for the last few years and Judy Jackson, her hairdresser. A special thanks also goes to the staff at Royal Plaza Retirement and Care Center for their care of Dorothy during her last five months of transitional care. The family suggests donations to the Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.
Prepared by JoAnn Thompson, January 2008
Revised August 2010