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Dorothy Lavern Leavitt Harwood

by Betty Jane Harwood Roberts - Daughter

Dorothy LaVerne Leavitt Harwood 1976My  Mother was born on Aug. 6, 1911 at the old Leavitt family home located at 48 North 9th  West, (now 10th West), in Salt Lake City, UT.

Father:   John William Leavitt
Mother:  Mary Jane Ollerton Leavitt
Siblings: Myrtle, Clyde, Gerald, Lyman, Claire, & Dean. 
Also Jack (Died by accidental poisoning at about 21 yrs of age), &  Mildred (Died of spinal meningitis at 6 yrs of age).

Unfortunately, Mom never kept a journal or any written history of her life that I have been able to find, other than a couple of photograph albums that she had,  so I am writing this based on the stories she told me as I was growing up and my own memories. 

Mother was only 5’ 2” tall, had dark brown hair, pretty blue eyes and a sweet smile.  In her later years her hair turned to a beautiful silver white with still a little dark brown mixed in.  I always knew her to be a quiet, reserved lady, but based on stories and pictures she was pretty vivacious and active in her late teens and early twenties.  She had three close girlfriends that she palled around with.  They were Nedrra Bridge, Ruth Dunlop and Marian, whose last name I can’t remember.    They had some fun times as indicated in the attached pictures. 

Mom was raised in the same family home where she was born and lived there until she married my Dad, Leroy Arthur Harwood on Jun. 7, 1934.  She met him at a Church Dance.  It seems Dad was very smitten by mother, even though she was actually seriously involved with another man. He was not deterred, however, and continued to pursue her until he finally succeeded in winning her over and they ultimately married.

In her youth Mother was active in ballet.  This picture was taken in front of her home, showing her ready to perform at a dance recital.  I’m guessing she was about 6 or7 years old at the time. 
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She also learned to play the piano very proficiently and taught piano lessons for some time.  I used to love to hear her play.  My favorite piano piece that I always begged her to play was, “Rio Nights”.  I still have that sheet music, along with most of her piano instruction books and other sheet music.  While we were living in Idaho Falls , ID, Dad bought mom a beautiful  Kimball piano. She was so surprised and happy to receive such a special gift.  She dearly loved that piano.  My dad had a beautiful baritone voice and often was asked to sing in Church, at weddings, and funerals, etc.and mother accompanied him always.  Both of them loved music and dancing.   They were great together.

Mother and her sisters, Myrtle and Claire were taught to sew by Grandma Leavitt, and I assume they also had lessons in school.  All three became very accomplished seamstresses;   Mother made many of my clothes while I was growing up.  She taught me to sew at an early age and always encouraged me to take home economics in school so I could learn to sew and cook.  Mom not only sewed but did beautiful crocheting and other hand work.  She was always crocheting afghans, or something for someone.  She made beautiful doilies.  I still have many pieces that she made which I cherish. 

After her graduation from West High school in 1929, (I think), she went to work at Mountain Bell Telephone Co. as a telephone operator.  She was working there until she married.  Shortly after marrying they moved to Kingman, AZ where dad had accepted a job as an assayer for a mining company.   This was a short lived experience for them as mother became pregnant, and neither she nor dad liked Kingman.  It was hot, dirty and I gather the accommodations for this mining area left a lot to be desired..  Mother did not want to have her baby there and so, they returned to Salt Lake. 

Upon their return to Salt Lake they rented an apartment on North Temple.  This is where they began their family starting with the birth of their first son,   Fredrick Leroy, on Mar. 28, 1935.  Three and a half years later a daughter was born, Betty Jane, on Oct. 24, 1938.  The next home was on Chicago St. very close to mom’s parent’s family home.  It was actually just kiddy –corner across the alley behind Grandma and Grandpa Leavitt’s  house. 

The next move was to a home they purchased on Concord St. in Salt Lake very near to the Harwood family home, which was at 419 Emery St.  This was about 1940 – 41.  I guess they stayed there for about four years and then bought a home at 2778 Blair St. in South Salt Lake just South of 27th  South.  You’d have thought we were moving to the moon, it seemed so far out.   This was not a move that I’m sure Mother was real happy about as it was actually a kind of small farm.  We had  2 cows, chickens, rabbits and at one time we raised some pigs.  Of coarse there was also a garden to be planted and maintained.  It was a lot of work to have in addition to the fact that Dad was working a full time job.  As young kids, Fred and I loved it but I don’t think it turned out to be the lifestyle Mom and Dad were cut out for or wanted to continue.

In 1946 we moved back to the West side closer into town.  This was a small 2 bedroom bungalow at 369 North 9th West.  Mother couldn’t have been happier with this move.  She was back to her old stomping grounds.  It was while we lived here that a second son, Gerald William, was born on Aug.. 25, 1947.  He was the apple of everybody’s eye.    Mom and dad thought he was a very special gift to be received as it had been  9 years since Betty was born.  I believe that Mom pretty much assumed this was going to be our permanent home, but of course circumstances came up that ultimately took the family to Buhl, ID in 1950,  where Dad had accepted a job with CC Anderson Co. which was a store rather like Sears only on a  smaller scale.  We remained in Buhl for about 6 months, and then it was off to Idaho Falls, ID we went, where Dad was transferred by the company.  While Mother liked Idaho Falls pretty well, it was not home.  She always said she felt so strange living where there were no mountains.  She frequently said how much she missed those beautiful mountains that surround the Salt Lake Valley.  We lived in Idaho Falls for 6 years.  This is where Fred and I finished junior high and high school and Jerry was in grade school.  It is also where Mom & Dad became reactivated in the LDS Church and in 1956 their marriage was solemnized and the kids were sealed to them in the Idaho Falls Temple on May 22, 1956.  Shortly thereafter, Dad became ill and was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.  He was operated on, but there was nothing they could do back in that day.  Knowing his time was short, he decided to move the family back to Salt Lake in Sep. 1956, where we would be close to their families and have that support at this crucial time. It was 2 ½ years later after enduring 2 or 3 more  surgeries and, horrible suffering that Dad passed away on Jan 15, 1958 at our home in Granger, UT.  Mother was devastated.  She had lost her soul mate, sweetheart, and best friend and she was truly heart broken.  It was a very painful time for all of us.  I think is was hardest on Mom and my little brother, Jerry.  He was just 9 years old. 

Shortly after Dad’s passing Mom put the Granger home up for sale and she found a home in Rose Park, on Talisman Dr., just 2 doors down from her sister, Claire.  This was a move and blessing that was meant to be.  Mother was so happy to be near Aunt Claire and Bonnie,  she was still healing from losing Dad and it was good for her to have her sister so close.  They were able to look after each other and gain comfort and companionship, for which I will be eternally grateful.  Fred married in 1960 and soon moved away to Las Vegas and then to California.  Jerry finished high school and went to work but was drafted into the army at 19 and shipped off to boot camp, leaving just Mom and I together in the Rose Park home.   After getting out of the service Jerry married Linda Wilson who was  from  West Virginia and so they stayed in West VA as Linda didn’t want to leave all of her family.   I married in 1964 and moved out, leaving Mom alone, so it was a comfort knowing that she was close to Aunt Claire and not totally alone.

It was about 1965 – 66 that Mother was stricken with rheumatoid  arthritis, a horrible, debilitating disease, which progressively crippled her hands and feet.   She was always in pain from that time on.  She was treated with all the current medications that were available but got only limited relief.  Mother, however, was a fighter and forced herself to stay active and do many things that, I’m sure were difficult for her.   Mother went to work for the Salt Lake Tribune in the Classified Ad Dept. where she worked for about 10 years. .  It was good for her and she liked her job and being involved with others.    She became an active member of the Arthritis Foundation of Salt Lake working to help get funding for research for the treatment and cure of rheumatoid arthritis.  It was her way of coping with the disease, I think.  She endured surgery on her feet to help straighten her toes and give her some relief. She was a trooper, strong and determined. to make the best of things.  She truly endured to the end.

Mother lived in the Rose Park home for 20 years, and  she was there alone for 16 of those years.  With Fred and his family living in California and Jerry and his family living in West VA, it was left up to me and my husband Doug to look after Mother.  We tried very hard to have her at our house as often as possible, which was pretty much most weekends and on all the major holidays.  She took care of my two boys when they were young and I was working everyday.  The boys loved her and it was good for them to have that time together with their Grandma.  They were always happy to have her come and stay at the house with us. 

Mother tried to travel to see Fred and Jerry as often as she could and, of course they were always delighted to have her visit with them for a week or two.  They all loved her very much and she them.  I hope she knew how much we all loved and cared about her and how much we appreciated her.  She and dad taught us so much about how to be good people,  to have a strong work ethic and to be responsible and independent.  They were good examples for us and they wanted us to be happy and successful in our lives.  We were very blessed to have such good, loving parents.

Mom was always soft spoken, and sweet natured. even though her life was not always easy.  There were financial worries for a good part of her life, it seems.  Mother sold Avon Cosmetics for many, many years to help supplement the family income.    As kids, we never knew we were poor.   My brothers and I often remark that we didn’t really know how Mom & Dad were able to always see that we had everything we needed.  Mom performed magic as she budgeted the money and she always found a way to have money for my piano lessons, Fred’s accordion lessons and Jerry's needs for scouting and baseball.   I’m sure she went without many things to provide for us.  Mom & Dad saw to it that all our needs were met and we were a happy, loving family.  

Mother was always a stay at home mom, raising her children, maintaining a clean, nice, well kept  home for us all.  Mother was always a classy lady.  Never a day went by that she didn’t get up, dress and put on her makeup, even though that must have been hard for her in the last years of her life.  Her Bishop remarked at her funeral that he never met with Mom that she wasn’t beautifully groomed and ready for visitors and he knew she was ready to meet her Lord and Savior when she passed away on Jun. 8, 1979 at the University Hospital from complications resulting from the rheumatoid arthritis. 

She is missed by us all……………………………. 



Written May 27, 2012

Betty Jane Harwood Roberts.

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