Rev. Dr. Dorothy May Emerson, 1943-2019
Fullerton Union High School, Class of 1961


Rev. Dr. Dorothy May Emerson of Woburn, MA (formerly of Medford) - Unitarian Universalist minister, author, peace and justice activist - died suddenly on May 13, 2019 at the age of 75.
Dorothy leaves behind her beloved spouse/life partner of 30 years, Donna Clifford; her son Damian Elrod, his wife Kathy Vlietstra, her grandson, Zade Elrod (Portage, MI); her sister and brother-in-law, Mary Lou and John Woodcock (West Chester, PA); her brother, Howard Emerson (Trinidad, CA); her brother, Clark Emerson (Orange County, CA); her nephew & his family, Brendan Woodcock, Reena Panjwani, Aurelia Woodcock (Chattanooga, TN); her niece, Emily Woodcock, partner Greg Sobczynski (Ypsilanti, MI). She also leaves behind the many members of Donna’s family, who loved her very much, as well many dear cousins, friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
Dorothy loved to travel. She and Donna had many wonderful adventures in the U.S. and Canada, sometimes accompanied by friends or family. Whenever possible, Dorothy would plan their trips so that they could visit family and friends along the way. In recent years, Hawaii had become one of Dorothy’s favorite places to vacation, and she felt especially drawn to the Big Island.
Dorothy also loved music, theater, books, and art. She and Donna have attended many concerts, plays, and art openings over the years. Winnowing down her vast book collection in preparation for the move to Woburn was a difficult task for her.
Dorothy’s most recent book, Sea Change: The Unfinished Agenda of the 1960s, was published in 2018. Other published works include Becoming Women of Wisdom: Marking the Passage into the Crone Years; Standing Before Us: Unitarian Universalist Women and Social Reform, 1776-1936; as well as numerous articles, sermons, pamphlets, curricula. Just days before her death, 44 boxes of her professional papers were gratefully received by the Harvard Divinity School library for their archives.
Dorothy grew up in Fullerton, CA. She received a German Literature from Pomona College in 1965. After living in Florida, Texas, and at the Women’s Encampment for Peace and Justice in Seneca Falls, NY, she moved to Massachusetts. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1988. In 1997 she received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Andover Newton Theological School. Dorothy served churches in Wakefield, Watertown, Belmont, Medford, Weymouth, and Billerica, MA, New Haven, CT, and Honolulu, HI. She was the founder of the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Heritage Society, and served as its Executive Director from 1991-2001. From 1994-2001 Dorothy served as an Anti-Racism Advocate and Trainer for the Unitarian Universalist Task Force on Anti-Racist, Multicultural Congregations. She advocated for many years to have the UUA focus on class issues, and the intersectionality of race and class. She served on the board of UU Class Conversations and presented workshops on class issues to many congregations. Most recently, Dorothy was working on the Rainbow History Project for the UU Retired Ministers and Partners Association, a project that was introduced at the UURMaPA conference in New Braunfels, Texas, in February 2019.
Dorothy’s other affiliations include the Zonta Club of Medford, MA, the Mystic Valley Area Branch NAACP, and the Medford Arts Center, Inc. 
A memorial service was held on Saturday, June 8, 10:00 a.m.,
at Melrose UU Church, Melrose. MA.
Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the UU Rainbow History Project of the Unitarian Universalist Retired Ministers and Partners Association. Please make checks payable to UURMaPA with “In honor of Dorothy Emerson” in the memo line, and mail to Rev. David Hunter, 535 Gradyville Rd, #V-211, Newton, PA 19073.

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Entered by Paul Saevig, '67 on May 14, 2023 at 2:50 PM said:

In retrospect the Fullerton we grew up in seems in memory like the setting for an ante-bellum novel or kiddy fairy story. I remember Dorothy from the first class in the brand new Golden Hills Grammar School. Her family lived across the street and I enjoyed the hospitality or her family and she that of mine countless times. As Fullerton Indians we shared thousands of pleasant, little moments and chats.
Per chance, we met up again in the "Summer of Love" in 1967 San Francisco. I was writing a novel which would never see the light of day. She was studying for the ministry. Both of us were anti-war and believed in love, peace and freedom. She went off to fight for and live out those priorities. I went off to concentrate on me and mine while seeing much of the planet in the process. As to Dorothy´s campaigns for racial, sexual and economic equality, I was a no-show. However, from hindsight I am proud to say I have always been a male feminist who believes women are at least as smart as men and should be paid and treated accordingly. I got that way from being exposed to girls like Ann Crutcher, Dorothy Emerson and Susan Harvey and many other marvelous women.
When she met for our 2011 high school reunion, Dorothy was upset FUHS was still home of the Indians. I, in turn, let her know my disgust at how my University, after dumping the teaching of Western Civilization for Black Studies, went from being the Stanford Indians to naming themselves after members of the upper ranks of the Catholic Church, the scarlet color of prostitution, or a dumb bird: The Cardinals. Needless to say, we disagreed on that and other issues. No doubt she was not pleased with my prediction that the political correctness she personified would play a great role in the election of America´s current President.
So far I have retained my health and enjoy friends, food and a modicum of gracious living in the Deco center of Barcelona. However, reading Sandra Campbell¨s masterful sum-up of Dorothy´s life brought home the fact of what a self-centered, materialistic, frivolous life I have led compared to hers. If in this increasingly sad planet of eight billion people there were a million Dorothy Emersons, we would be much closer to the "Better World" she lived for. Few people I have known actually made the love, tolerance and sacrifice of Jesus Christ central to their life. If there is a heaven, surely Dorothy deserves to be there.

Larry Lang

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