Dorothy Stager Profile: Open Your House And Heart. Stay Busy. Trust God.

Meet Dorothy Stager, 94 years young, full of kindness, acceptance, and generosity. With 9 children, 12 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren, she loves, and is loved, by so many. She’s my grandmother-in-law and I am grateful to witness her wisdom in this profile.

A few of my favorite life nuggets: Many of us complain about how busy we are, but Dorothy misses her busiest days. Some of us say we are too old to learn something new; but in her 40s, Dorothy said, “Enough of this. I am learning how to drive!” Sometimes we feel like we don’t have a lot to give, but Dorothy explains how there’s always room for one more person at your dinner table, and in your heart, and how that adds to the beauty of life.

Enjoy her reflections. Quoted words are Dorothy’s, edited for context.

What are you most proud of in your life?

Dorothy with some of her great-grandkids in 2017

“Staying married all those years, weathering some big storms, but always knowing he was the one for me forever.  And my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Proud of all of them, each as individuals.”

When you were in the depths of raising nine kids, how did you survive?

“My first thought when I woke in the morning as the alarm went off was thanking the Lord for bringing me into a new day. And wondering what to do. I’d put the little ones in the wagon and we’d go to the park. This was when I only had 2 or 3 and we lived in the city.  Cleveland.

When we moved to the country, we rented a huge farm house. I was a city girl and it was very hard for me. Plus, in the city, my mother lived upstairs. Now I had no one to help out. But she would have my brother drive her out every weekend and that was a big help. The kids liked living in Valley City but I did not. It was only temporary there because we were renting.

Then we moved to a five bedroom house in Medina where we lived until Jack passed. Those were years filled with happiness, tears, trials, and joys.

Jack and Dorothy in the earlier years of their marriage

I was lucky to make friends both through the church and neighbors. And we saw our relatives a lot. We were a very, very active household. We had an acre of land and Jack planted a garden. We had corn, beans, tomatoes, strawberries, and other things. How I found the time to can and freeze them, I don’t know.

When the youngest were little, the oldest were old enough to be a big help to me. My youngest and oldest were 18 years apart.

Sometimes it was hard with nine kids, all so different. I always tried hard not to judge them when they would go a different direction than I would want for them. And all of them were in my ear with some of their deep private thoughts. It was important to me to keep anything any of them said to me locked in my heart. Even if it was breaking my heart in a way.”

[Note from me: The above is one of the things I admire most about Dorothy. She is a devout Catholic, but never once has made me feel less-than because my belief system is different than hers (spiritual, rather than religious). She noticeably loves and embraces her church and ways of worship, and simultaneously lets me love God my own way.]

“There was never quiet time for me. I remember being exhausted at night.

Survival, I guess, came from a marriage that even with its ups and downs was strong, family and friends, and, of course, God.”

What were the greatest challenges in your life?

“My third child, a baby girl, Mary Frances. Born on September 2nd; died September 10th. She lived eight days. I never got to hold her. Dark thick black hair. I can still see her.

Raising my children with all the obstacles that were thrown at us. We somehow made the best of what we had.

From learning to drive in her 40s to driving a boat at age 94!

I never drove until I was probably in my 40s. I thought, “Enough of this!” and signed up for driver’s training. It was the best thing I ever did. It gave me new independence. I miss not being able to drive so much.

What’s given you strength?

“My faith. My husband. At different times, different children. And my closest friends.”

What does joy mean to you?

“When the kids were young I got joy every Saturday morning when I’d make German nut rolls, pies, cakes, and cookies from scratch. I love to bake.

Right now in my life, joy is when I know I’m going to have a visitor. Going to my granddaughter’s house in the morning and being with my great-grandkids.

It doesn’t take much to make me happy. I love having company. It’s impossible for me to plan so I get joy from people planning and helping me out. My life was so full and busy always – even right to the end while living on Smith Road when I was caring for Jack. Now I’m not so busy and I miss so much of that. I miss being busy. I say, “it’s time.” But the good Lord must have a different plan, because I’m still here.

Jack and Dorothy in later years

A few thoughts: Marriage. It’s the little things that make or break a marriage. Jack would bring candy bars home from work in his lunch box. We always tried to keep the little things going. He used to love to take me to dinner and liked to travel. We traveled a lot when the kids were grown.”

Please share with us words to live by.

“Be grateful for what you have.  And love. Love and give to others. It feels so good to give. We had a full dining table. We always had one or two of the kids’ friends over for dinner. There was always room for one more. Always open up your house and heart.

Don’t panic. Everything will be alright.

Trust God. Trust His timing.”


Time for YOU to journal! Answer these questions:

  • When your life changes in your later years and you aren’t so busy any more, what do you think you will miss? Can you be more grateful for these things now, and give them more space in your day and heart?
  • How can you add more “little things” into your marriage that will make it thrive?
  • Is it difficult for you to not judge your family or friends when they do something different than what you want for them? How can you add more acceptance towards the people most important in your life?

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