If Dorothy Bair, matriarch of her family, decided there should be a family reunion it would take more than a few picnic tables at a local park to accommodate everyone. At last count Bair, who is 98, had 108 grandchildren, including great-grandkids and even a few great-greats. What’s more, there is at least one more baby on the horizon.
If a person was asked to describe Dorothy Bair using just one word, a quick response might be “delightful.” She is witty and clever, warm and friendly, and full of quips and quotes. When asked how she was doing, her eyes twinkled before she said, “Not as good as I’d like to be, but better than I would be if I wasn’t as good as I am.” And then she laughed merrily.
In fact, it was her love of such quotes that turned her into an author of sorts. “Every time I heard or read something I liked I’d write it in a loose-leaf binder,” she said. Eventually the binders were turned into three published booklets that are heaped with wit, advice, humor and philosophy.
Dorothy Bair’s story began in 1921 in Shelley, Idaho. As a young girl she went to work for a woman who boarded teachers and subsequently fell in love with Dean Bair, her employer’s son. “Working for her, that’s how I found that good husband of mine. He was a wonderful man. We got married when I was 16.”
After a pause, she grinned, leaned forward, and continued, “He didn’t know I was that young. He was 21 and should have known better. But he did know I could bake bread and keep house.”
The couple had seven children, one of whom died at birth. Bair said the family moved from Idaho to Ephrata because they’d heard better potatoes could be grown here.
“Plus, we had a lot of boys we wanted to keep busy, so we needed more land to tend,” she said. Eventually, their children found spouses and began having offspring and the trend continued until the numbers grew to a whopping 100 and then beyond.
Bair claims that, “All my grands are great, and all my greats are grand,” but one was especially so. When her 100th great grandson, Grant Center, was born in 2015, she presented him with a framed $100 bill.
Dean Bair passed away 15 years ago, and Dorothy is now a resident at Monroe House. Not surprisingly, her walls are decorated with pictures of family. Even at her advanced age, she is spirited and sprightly.
“When I was 95, I jumped out of an airplane,” she said during an interview. After waiting for the proper shocked response to that remarkable feat, she laughingly added, “It was sitting in the back yard and only a few feet off the ground.”
Bair realizes she is thoroughly blessed with her big family. “I’ve had a good life for 98 years,” she said, and offered this last bit of advice: “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.”
Good advice for anyone.