March 9, 1920 – March 23, 2019
On Saturday, March 23, 2019, Dorothy Elizabeth Smith (nee Matson) passed away in Whitehorse two weeks after her 99th birthday. Dorothy was born on March 9, 1920, in Atlin, B.C. to Selma and Axel Nelson. Her mother contracted the Spanish flu and died within a few days of Dorothy’s birth. Margaret and Peter Matson adopted Dorothy as a baby. She spent her childhood at Ruby Creek, on a mining outfit in the Atlin goldfields. Dorothy attended school in Atlin, but did not continue past Grade 8 because that would have meant attending a boarding school down south. Instead, Dorothy helped her mother cook for the miners at Ruby Creek. She enjoyed reading, fishing, boating, hiking, skiing and gathering mushrooms and berries. Later, she participated fully in Atlin’s social scene, attending dances and playing cards – she was crowned Dominion Day Queen at the 1940 July First celebration. Her escort was newly arrived butcher, Jim Smith.
They were married October 28, 1942. The Smiths loved their time in Atlin and told many stories about all the adventures they had with friends around its spectacular scenery. But, as Jim would say, “You can’t eat the scenery,” so with heavy hearts they relocated to Whitehorse in 1947 so Jim could take up his new position as manager of Tourist Services. He was well liked and hardworking, but the job demanded long hours. Once Marilyn and Eric were born the family moved into a house on Cook Street, hand built by Jim after his long shifts at work.
When Jim was appointed Commissioner of the Yukon Territory in 1966, a position he held for ten years, Dorothy had to be on hand to host the annual Commissioner’s Levee in the Commissioner’s residence, meet dignitaries and attend many public functions. A shy person by nature, she surprised herself by enjoying this role. Dorothy distinguished herself in needle arts, quilting, knitting, and recently, colouring books. She had great talents and exhibited thoughtful her work. Many of her works are on display at the homes of friends and family. She was an adventurous, intuitive artist. Well into her 90s Dorothy went into high production, knitting socks for her grandsons and great-grandchildren. Dorothy loved exploring handicrafts with others and volunteered at Macaulay Lodge quilting with residents, even though she was older than many of them. Dorothy was adventurous in many ways, loved her time traveling and meeting dignitaries, but she reveled in the everyday. She liked gardening, berry picking, cooking and baking. Dorothy regularly attended duplicate bridge, and together with her partner won many prizes. She and Jim enjoyed hosting friends in their tidy home on Alsek Road. They loved their grandchildren and were able to forge close relationships with them.
Dorothy held a deep religious faith and was connected to the natural world, and to a profound belief in God. Two years ago, Dorothy moved into Macaulay Lodge and then the Whistle Bend Continuing Care Facility. She quickly adapted and felt lucky that she was able to see the mountains from her room.
Dorothy was preceded in death by Jim, her husband of 74 years and their infant son William (1951), parents George and Selma Nelson, adoptive parents Margaret and Pete Matson, brother George Nelson, sister-inlaw Bessy Nelson and brother Ted Matson. She is survived by her daughter Marilyn and her son Eric, three grandsons Alex, Michael (Hitoha) and Matthew (Serah) and great grandchildren Noel, Lennan, Emma and Stella, sister-in-law Helen Matson, nieces Shirley Santos Pedro, Rika Compton and nephews Thor and Mark Matson.
The family is planning a memorial to take place in Whitehorse in early August. If you wish, please make a donation in Dorothy’s name to House 6 Resident Council, Whistle Bend Place, 90 Olive May Way, Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 0R4. Your gift will be used to purchase craft supplies