It was sometime the late 1980s, as I remember. Sr. Dorothy and I were driving to some hotel or other on Saipan for the dress-up dinner that was to end a Micronesian library conference. We both heard a pop as our car suddenly began to swerve. It was a flat tire, we saw when we came to a stop. I looked at Dorothy, but she began a long monologue about how she knew nothing about changing car tires. So there was nothing I could do but crawl under the car to position the jack, start loosening the bolts, and find the spare tire. And hope that my good trousers and pressed shirt didn’t look too much the worse for wear when we finally got to the dinner. All the while, Dorothy was chirping away–wishing that we had left a little earlier in case of such emergencies, suggesting that we should have taken the middle road rather than the beach road, complaining about the condition of the highways, reminding me how late we were going to be for the dinner.
When the tire was changed and we began driving away, she began teasing me for my messy appearance. First the non-stop chatter all the while I was working on the tire, and now the jokes about the dirt on my pants. The truth is that I had to resist the temptation to push her out of the car and speed off, but Dorothy was just being herself. So we laughed all the way to the hotel.
That was Sr. Dorothy–forever chattering, sometimes on subjects that you would rather have her drop, but a woman who stood by you and seemed mysteriously able to fix everything with a laugh at the end of the day.
Dorothy Nook, like most of her Mercedarian companions, joined the convent in her early teens. Even during her initial formation on Saipan, her passion for education began to blossom. Throughout her long life as a Mercedarian she served as a classroom teacher and a principal many times over–in Pohnpei, in Chuuk, in Palau, and for a long stretch late in her life in the Marshalls. Dorothy did much more than talk. When they needed someone to become principal of Assumption School, she stepped in without hesitation. When someone was needed to serve as head of the Catholic schools in the diocese, Dorothy was ready to do the job.
Three years ago I was seated next to Dorothy at a week-long Catholic School Administrators Conference. Whenever I spoke, Dorothy twisted her head and began to comment, not always approvingly, half to me and half to the others, even before I finished speaking. After a day or two of this, I noticed the smiles whenever I raised my hand to speak. Everyone knew what was to come and they were preparing for the entertainment.
Sr. Dorothy passed away on June 5. With her death we lost a dedicated educator, a woman who spared no effort to improve what our schools were doing, a woman who seemed willing to go anywhere she was needed to help. I also lost a non-stop critic who also happened to be a very good friend.