Dorothy May Burton (Wardman) passed away peacefully among family just three months before her 99th birthday, Feb. 10, 2021, at Heritage House in Morton, Wash. Dottie, as nearly everyone called her, was a graceful, smiling woman who loved her family and friends, always had time to hear people’s stories and share in their adventures, and was an artist at heart.
As the beloved matron of a large and active family, she coordinated grand reunion campouts where she would float in the river with her grand and great-grandchildren, she fished with her own young brood and loved to camp with friends and family. She most recently kept a beautiful home overlooking the Tilton River Valley and the family’s property outside Morton where she spent her free time painting and visiting with family and friends.
Dottie made everyone feel like she couldn’t be prouder of them. Even in her later years, she remembered everything about the people in her expansive family and large circle of friends. She always wanted to know what people had been doing since she last visited with them.
She was born in Seattle, Wash., May 7, 1922, to Elsie (Mundy) and Leonard Haley Wardman. She grew up in Bellingham and was always very close with her brother, two sisters, nieces, and nephews. In 1943, at the age of 21, Dottie joined the U.S. Naval Women’s Reserves, known as the WAVES — or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. She went to Hunter’s College in New York, where she joined the “Singing Platoon” under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. She performed in many places in New York including Carnegie Hall for a concert in honor of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the WWI Flying Ace. After training, she went to Treasure Island in San Francisco to work in the Navy payroll department. It was here that she met Charley, a Navy pilot from Morton, Wash.
Dottie and Charley were married on Christmas Day, 1944. After the war, they both attended the University of California at Davis. They lived in California until 1953, then returned to Washington to farm and raise a family. They had five children: Lynne, Barbara, David, Howard, and John. They lived in the Chehalis area where Dottie was actively involved in the Episcopal church. In 1971, they moved to Bear Canyon, near Morton, building on property purchased back in 1949.
For the next two years, Dottie raised her boys (the girls were grown by then) in a mobile home using a part-time generator and a wood stove while the living quarters were under construction. Dottie finally got her dream house in 1985, where she entertained family and friends and loved to garden and play bridge. Here she finally had time to play the piano and paint.
Dottie and Charley were active in the Washington Farm Forestry Association, where she was secretary for several years. They were instrumental in the development of Christmas tree farming in Lewis County and helped found the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association. The tree farm they started, Bear Canyon Tree Farm, continues today as a third-generation farm. All of their children are, or have been, involved in the Christmas tree industry.
Charley died in 2003, after almost 60 years of marriage. Dottie is survived by all of her children; their spouses; 19 grandchildren; and 37 great-grandchildren. Her favorite time of the year was the annual summer family campout, when her siblings and their children would join her family at Bear Canyon for a long weekend of swimming, cooking, and roasting marshmallows.
A celebration of life will be held at 12 p.m., Saturday, May 8, 2021, at the family campground.