March 12, 2020
Dorothy Mae (Henningsen) Borger, the third child of Emit and Elva Henningsen, was born in rural Limestone Township on her family’s farm Nov. 16, 1922. She died March 3, 2020, at the age of 97 years, three months, and 16 days. After many years of near blindness from macular degeneration, she can now truly see and celebrate alongside her husband Jennings, her parents, three of her siblings, Jennings’ sisters, and innumerable family and friends.
Survivors are her daughters, Sherri Wright of Danville, Va.; Charli Barrett, and husband, Don, of Randall; grandchildren Cary Wright, Danville, Va.; Alex Wright, Alexandria, Va.; Erika Barrett, Jefferson City, Mo.; Kirsten Jones and husband, Nathan, Beloit; Heather McDonald and husband, Sean, Brewster; great-grandchildren, Nicholas Wright, Danville, Va.; Tiffany Sheakley, Tacoma, Wash.; Brooks and Jace Jones, Beloit; and Boone and Porter McDonald, Brewster; her brother, Rex; her brother-in-law, Dwight and wife, Joyce; Rhonda Wright, many nieces and nephews; and a host of friends and caregivers from the Nicol Home and Solomon Valley Hospice.
Dorothy was a farm girl at heart having lived her entire life in rural Jewell County. She attended her early years in country schools, riding between her two big brothers on their horse (with her chubby little legs sticking straight out). When she was nine years old, her family moved to a farm just north of Ionia, where she attended high school. Since “Normal Training” classes were not offered at Ionia High School, Dorothy boarded with a family in Burr Oak her senior year to earn the certification to teach in the county’s rural schools. As a result of the United States entering into World War II, Dorothy was never able to achieve her dream of attending college but lived out every other goal that she wrote about in a seventh grade writing project. Dorothy enjoyed her time in 4-H! She was a member from an early age earning many county and statewide awards. It was through 4-H that, at age 14, she met the love of her life, Jennings (Bill) Borger, at a county club day event.
After a long courtship, Dorothy and Jennings married on April 22, 1944, at the Cawker City Baptist Parsonage. In order to help support Jennings’ ailing father, they lived for their first year of marriage in a little “bunk house” on his family farm. When they were able to purchase their first acreage together in Odessa Township north and west of Ionia, Dorothy could finally create her own home. She always had a huge vegetable garden from which she preserved a bounty to feed her family, and her cherry orchard provided fruit for the community as well. When her daughters, Sharon Sue and Charlotte Rae, came along, she taught them to cook, sew, garden and care for a family home. In addition to that, while she was dressing chickens or canning tomatoes or working in the garden, she would tell the girls stories and teach them early learning skills so that they were well-prepared for first grade. She knew every bird’s song and every flower’s name and created a love for nature that her daughters still cherish today.
From the beginning, Dorothy liked and welcomed her sons-in-law and continually told them how proud of them she and Jennings were. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, however, were her pride and joy! She created numerous story audio cassettes about life on the farm to send to Cary and Alex when they were young, and took the Barrett sisters on countless nature walks along the creek at her farm. Each of the grandchildren and great-grands is the proud owner of one of Gram’s quilts or denim comforters.
In November of 1981, one week before her 59th birthday, her planned and orchestrated life fell apart when Jennings suffered a fatal heart attack. True to her character, Dorothy pulled on her coveralls, picked up her hoe and pen, and diligently began the task of keeping herself (and her vigorous brain) busy. She made quilts for her family, worked for a landscaping firm, and volunteered with the county Farm Bureau and Conservation offices.
When macular degeneration destroyed her vision, she decided on her own that it was time to move to Hilltop Assisted Living where she continued to create quilts and stories for her great-grandchildren. She moved to live out her remaining four years at the Nicol Home in Glasco, as dementia further reduced the scope of her life. In that environment, Dorothy blossomed into a sweet, caring woman who called each staff member “her angel” and constantly thanked each one for the smallest act of kindness. With Solomon Valley Hospice coming on board within her last seven hours to provide much needed medical services and emotional support, her adult care came full circle when Liz, her first assisted living angel, became her final angel to assist her transition to heaven.
*The casket bearers were Don R. Barrett, Erika Barrett, Nathan and Kirsten Jones, Sean and Heather McDonald. The honorary casket bearers were Nicholas Wright, Brooks and Jace Jones, and Boone and Porter McDonald.
Klepplinger Funeral Home Jewell were in charge of arrangements.