No matter their age or situation, “people need a purpose, and they need somewhere to go, and they need friends,” Dorothy Dine declares.
Last year, she retired as president of the Hamblen Civic League, which she helped establish in the 1950s. At 89, she still finds her purpose through the league and the Hickory Ridge Community Center which the league maintains.
“I don’t paint anymore, because I’ve got arthritis in my fingers. I don’t sew anymore; can’t see the thread and needle,” she said.
“So, what do you do? What can you do, when you’re knocking on the door to 90?”
Recently, Dine has been writing the stories of her life and of the lives that touched hers.
She didn’t know how to use a computer a short time ago, and she still hunts and pecks with two or three fingers when she types, but she persevered for one reason: “I had a purpose.”
“I’ve been president of something ever since I was 17 years old, until now,” Dine said.Her father had been a tenant farmer in Morgan County, but saved enough to buy an 80-acre farm in Johnson County.
Around 17 or 18, Dine met her late husband, Morris, at church. He was on furlough, a soldier in World War II. “Met him on furlough, engaged to him on the next furlough, and married to him on the next furlough,” she said.
After she married, Dine moved across the Brown-Johnson County line to live with her mother-in-law on what is now Gold Point Road, and she began saving her husband’s allotment.
They bought 5 acres down the road from his family’s farm and built the house where Dine lives to this day.
At 21, Dine voted in her first election, but as a Republican, she didn’t have many choices in 1940s Brown County.
“When you went to vote, you voted Democrat, or you didn’t vote,” she said.
The next year, she was asked to serve on the Brown County Election Board. “Next thing I knew, I was vice precinct committeeman, then I was precinct committeeman, then president of Republican Women.”
Morris Dine kept encouraging her to run for office, but she never felt she would have the time. After he retired in 1982, he began pushing her to run again, telling her she would do well on county council with her aptitude for math, Dine said.
Dine repeated that to a fellow member of the Purdue Extension Board while they were working on new bylaws.
“And one of them on there says, ‘Oh, they’d never elect a woman.’”
She proved him wrong three times during her 12 years on the council.
Dine was on the council that figured out how to pay for the County Office Building, as well as a place to put it.
It’s a 12-mile drive between her home and Nashville, and Dine would spend it thinking and praying about how to pay for the new building, she said.
After one of those drives, she called a nephew who was on the board at the Bank of Franklin. The next day, she was called by the bank’s vice president, and after consulting with a second bank, the council settled on a four-year loan.
When the office building was done, the county had enough money to work on the courthouse, she said. They put in an elevator, moved the stairwell and applied a preservative to exterior bricks that had begun to deteriorate.
The key to their success was that everyone worked together toward a solution, she said.
“You have to listen to people to be any kind of a leader,” she said.
There was no telephone service on Gold Point Road and several others in the area when Dine began sending her oldest son to Sprunica Elementary.
She was concerned that there was no way to call out in case of an emergency. Pregnant women would even leave the county as much as two months before their due date, she said.
So, she and neighbors went out with clipboards and gathered signatures to prove interest in phone service, then took those signatures to the public service commissioner.
When the phone company told Dine that service would be coming, they had more work for her: name the roads.
“I named the roads everything that I knew they were,” she said.
The one exception was Gold Point, which was commonly known as Dine Holler Road.
Previously, the road had gone into and followed the creek bed, but at that time it passed through where the one-room Gold Point School had been.
“I thought Gold Point Road sounded better,” she said.
She and her husband ran a prospector’s shop, where they sold lamps she had learned to make through 4-H as well as Army surplus entrenching shovels and gold panning pans she ordered from Colorado. Gold-panning had been a historical occupation of Morris Dine’s family.
After Dorothy Dine lost her fourth run for county council, she took it as a sign to spend more time with Morris. In their 60s, they opened a quilting shop together; he quilted the quilts and she taught classes.
Hickory Ridge and the Hamblen Township Civic League have been a central part of Dine’s life since the 1950s.
It all started when parents got together to raise money for playground equipment at the new Sprunica Elementary. Five of those couples decided they enjoyed working together and the fellowship they had, so, they founded the civic league.
Their first goal was to establish and maintain a community center. They found 12 acres with a cement block garage and attached workroom, and they worked out a payment plan with the owner for $100 a month.
Fundraisers included horse pulls, go-kart races, baseball games and music shows.
“We were building a community center so people had someplace to go, and something to do,” she said.
In the 1960s, funding became available for a Head Start program, and the civic league secured a grant from the Lilly Foundation to add onto Hickory Ridge. The league went door-to-door selling the price of a cement block to raise the 20 percent grant match.
Later, the league found another grant to add a space for seniors. That time, they matched the grant with in-kind work: carpenters put a roof on; painters painted the kitchen for Head Start.
However, the money for Head Start went away more than a decade ago, and the funding for the senior center stopped about three years ago.
“I keep praying they can keep Hickory Ridge going,” she said. “They need to get some enthusiasm going, and keep involving people.”
Dine still has about 35 paintings she created in a class at Hickory Ridge after her husband passed away 17 years ago. She talked about the time they got together and made quilts for three couples who had been married for 50 years.
Having those activities was important, she said.
“They were creating. They were doing something. Everybody needs a purpose.”
“I never wanted to do anything great, but you make suggestions, and they work,” Dine said. “I think a lot of it is listening to people, and using their ideas, and their talents.”
Though she is no longer the president of the civic league, she still works with members who have taken over responsibilities she once held, such as creating the calendar or writing grant proposals.
Last year was the first time it ever occurred to Dine to think of herself as old, she said. Yet, she expects there is still work for her to do.
“You know, you wonder all the time, ‘God, is there something else I need to do?’ What is it I’m not doin’? And I don’t know what it is. I mean, we’ll just see what presents itself.”
Maiden name: Ellett
Place of birth: Morgan County
Spouse: The late Morris Dine
Children: Elva Lou Summers, Lisa Dine and the late Kenneth, John and Donald Dine
Parents: Fred and Pearl Ellett
Siblings: Viola Pierce, Damon Ellett and Helen Richart, and the late Ruth Miller and Clyde, Archie, Dale, Frederick and Raymond Ellett