Friends and relatives of Dottie Stephenson packed the Madison American Legion Post 157 last Saturday to honor the founder of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 157. Stephenson passed away in December 2020 after battling cancer. At that time COVID-19 public health restrictions prohibited large gatherings so the decision was made to postpone the celebration of her life until pandemic concerns were mitigated. Stephenson was the lifeblood of the local chapter and remained involved in the community to the end.
Stephenson was born in New York and moved to Florida as a teenager, staying in the sunshine state for college. After graduation, she took a job working for the U.S. Army in Germany. While working in Germany, Stephenson met her husband, Gerry. After the birth of their first child the couple moved back to the U.S. to Fairfax. The family remained in the Northern Virginia area until Gerry retired and the family moved to Madison County.
Once the couple moved to Madison County, Dottie took it upon herself to become part of the community. She devoted her energy to her family and American Legion Post 157.
At Saturday’s celebration of life, members of the American Legion Auxiliary and Stephenson’s family reminisced about her and the devotion to country and family that marked her life. Dottie was a familiar face around Madison and considered ‘Queen of the Kitchen’ for the many catfish suppers, St. Patrick’s Day dinners for Post 157 and countless breakfasts she prepared and coordinated for both the American Legion and the Ruritans.
Sacrifice was a theme mentioned by both friends and family in their remarks.
Her sons Byron, Daniel and David, all spoke about their mother’s devotion to her family and how she put the needs of others above herself whether it was driving the boys to sports practice, caring for her father in his later years or preparing dinners for Post 157.
“My mom was always thinking about others,” Daniel Stephenson said.
“She sacrificed everything for us,” Byron Stephenson added. “She was a stay-at-home mom. For years she drove the same old car. She sacrificed to make sure our family had everything, never worried about herself. Mom also supported all the other kids in the neighborhood. As the only stay-at-home mom, she ended up being a second mom to all the latchkey kids in the neighborhood. She never met a stranger and opened her heart to everyone.”
Former Post Commander, Mike Fisher recalled Dottie’s dedication to the organization and strong leadership skills.
“Dottie was so much for so long,” said Fisher in reference to her years of leadership. “She always took charge of a situation and we will always miss her.”
Not only was Stephenson the founder of Auxiliary Unit 157, she served as president for a decade and also served as President of District 13. Service to the community was important to Dottie and in addition to her work for Post 157 and the Auxiliary she worked as a driver for the local food pantry, served as a deaconess at Fairview Christian Church and worked with Madison County students, teaching them about military service. Stephenson worked tirelessly to support active duty soldiers and veterans by organizing crafting groups to make blankets, quilts and scarves and educational and support programs.