Tuesday, November 12, 2013


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (11/5/2013)


          Elizabeth Dobrinski heard about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, after ice skating on a frozen pond off Schultz Pass Road.  She’d turned 18 the day before.  This coming December 6, she will turn 90, and she as is as close to being fit as a fiddle as most people half her age. 


I told her that I felt old when one of my twin sons retired as a Los Angeles County firefighter and paramedic.  She put her head in her hands, laughing, and said, “How about a grandchild?  That’s when you really feel old.”  Her grandson, Clinton, is a retired firefighter and paramedic from Sedona. 


Elizabeth comes from pioneer stock with two homesteads in her family’s history.  Her maternal grandparents, the Andersons, homesteaded out Fort Valley Road in 1883, where her grandfather, William, nicknamed “Spud,” grew potatoes.  He and his wife, Lorinda, lived at first with three children in a one room cabin without a stove.  Lorinda cooked over a campfire outside.  A city girl from Los Angeles, she wasn’t fond of Flagstaff.   


Her father, William Wallace, and his wife, Ethel, homesteaded out at Mormon Lake in 1909.  He was a farmer, cattle rancher, firefighter, and forest ranger in addition to being one of Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” during the Spanish American War (1898).  The homestead is still in the family.  One of her sons, John and his wife, Sharon, live on the land in a large, hand-wrought log house.


Along with her late husband, Maurice, who was superintendant of mails at the Flagstaff Post Office, she raised four other children.  One son, Daniel, is a cook at the Marble Canyon Lodge near Lee’s Ferry.  Another son, David, died of brain cancer at the age of 44.  Her daughter, Lorinda, and her husband, Tom, both now retired, live in Phoenix where he was an engineer with ADOT and she was an accountant.


          She says, “By the time I could walk and follow someone around, I was playing in the dirt.”  It was her favorite pastime in addition to building streets, passes, and tunnels in the mud with the boys down the street.  Loving to play in the dirt and mud as a child is perhaps the best training for gardeners because a gardener had better love the feeling of dirt.  She also rode horse bare-back before she rode saddle.  She says she was a tomboy.


          When her parents moved to Flagstaff, they lived near the city park during a time when there were Pow Wows and cattle would often trample their garden.  Most of the streets weren’t paved. 


          One thing that separates pioneers from people today is the source of fresh vegetables.  The pioneers grew them while people today buy them.  There were grocery stores, but they were mostly stocked with canned goods and food that could be either dried or milled.  As a scion of pioneers, Elizabeth kept on gardening, eventually building a 12 by 20 foot solar heated greenhouse where they grew their vegetables.

Sad to say, her tomatoes were “puny” this year.


          One of her proudest achievements is growing all the flowers, including gladioli, pink and white stock, for her daughter’s wedding at the Federated Church.


          Elizabeth wasn’t home-bound.  Indeed, she says that her grandmother, Lorinda, was “a women’s libber before her time.”  It rubbed off on Elizabeth.  In addition to raising her children, being a wife, keeping a home, and gardening, she had a career, beginning at what would become the Arizona Daily Sun then at the Northland Press for nine years where she says that “book publishing was fun.”  During her time at Northland Press, she became a member of Soroptomist International of Flagstaff where she is a life member.


          Since Flagstaff was a small town, she knew everyone in town, including the Colton’s and the Danson’s of the Museum of Northern Arizona.  After leaving Northland Press, she became Edward (Ned) Danson’s secretary for 17 years, retiring in 1988.  She says all of her jobs were “fun” which may be the reason she’s turning ninety and on the lookout for something to strike her fancy.      

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2013

Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Arizona Daily Sun.  Smith emails at stpauls@npgcable.com and blogs at http://highcountrygardener.blogspot.com.




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