Dorothy Nord turned 100 on January 13. She was born January 13, 1916 in Bessemer, Penn., in Lawrence County. She is currently a resident at Robinwood Senior Living Center in Kernersville. Nord has been living at Robinwood for 20 years now, and knows everyone by name.
Friends from her musical group, Joyful Notes, held a birthday bash for Nord at Robinwood Center on Tuesday, January 12. Nord was joined by family and friends. Nord’s friends say her happiness is the key to her long life.
“I can’t believe that I’m 100,” Dorothy remarked, “There’s just no way in the world I’ve lived that many years.”
Among those greeting Nord was her last living sister Lucille, who flew in from Michigan to celebrate the joyous event. Lucille just turned 93 this past November and is the baby of the family.
Nord grew up in Bessemer, where she was raised by her parents, John Audle and Anna Elizabeth Johnson. John and Anna met and married in Harmony, Penn. in 1909, and then lived in Bessemer to raise their seven children. Nord had three brothers and three sisters, with Nord being the middle child.
Nord’s aunts, uncles and cousins lived close by, and she enjoyed a thoroughly connected life, close to the land and surrounded by family. Her father worked outside of the home at the Bessemer Cement plant and as the superintendent of the local high school. Nord said he was known as a leader within the community. Her mother stayed home and raised the children. Fondly looking back, Nord shared one of her favorite memories as a small child.
“We had an icebox until we got our electric refrigerator, the kind where we had to use chunks of dry ice to keep our food cold, and the farm near us delivered milk to our family on a daily basis. When it was cold weather, we would always try to rush home from school, and whoever got home from school first got the cream that settled on top of the glass milk container. It was so delicious and good.”
The Johnson family was the first in Bessemer to get an electric stove, and her mother was the first woman to drive a Studebaker in her town, Nord said.
“We had a radio in our home and my father loved listening to the famous radio programs, including one show called Amos ‘n’ Andy,” recalled Nord.
In high school, Nord was a standout athlete. She and her sister, Ester, played basketball together, with Nord playing forward.
“Both my sisters played pretty well,” explained Lucille. “Their coach called them Big Johnson and Little Johnson when they played. The irony was they were both quite petite in stature.”
Nord also played the saxophone in the high school band.
“The family grew up with a piano in the home, and everyone had to take piano lessons including me,” noted Lucille.
Nord graduated from Bessemer High School and then went onto Youngstown Business College in Ohio. She graduated from a two-year business course which specialized in secretarial skills. “They taught us to use machines like calculators, Dictaphones, typewriters, and telephones,” Nord explained.
After she graduated college, Nord landed her first job working for the Bessemer State Bank, where she remained for 11 years. It was during this time that she and Paul began to date seriously.
Soon the two were married, and so began a new chapter in Nord’s life. Over the course of the next five years, she dealt with the death of her mother and she gave birth to two healthy children: Kay and Cheryl. Both were born in the early 1940s.
“My dad (Paul Nord) was the baby of nine children. He always wanted to be a doctor, but he had to go to work at a young age to help support the family. He got a job at the Bessemer Cement plant. It was one of the two factories in the town. The town we lived in, everyone was practically related as both my parents came from large families, and we all knew each other,” explained Nord’s daughter, Kay Kinney.
Nord went back to work once her girls were of school age. While raising two daughters, being married and working outside the home, Nord always managed to find time to volunteer; she always made time for giving back to her community. She was a Girl Scout leader for almost 10 years; she delivered food while volunteering for the Meals on Wheels program; at one time she was president of the local women’s club in Bessemer; and she was active in her church, among other things.
“I didn’t know how to say ‘No,’” laughed Nord.
Nord became a widow at the young age of 49, when Paul passed away at the age of 53. She continued to work at the Bessemer Cement plant where she eventually retired at the age of 65.
Once retirement set in, Nord took on traveling. On one of her trips she flew to Jerusalem, to study and learn more about the Holy Land and Cairo. She even had the opportunity to ride a camel.
“I rode a camel at the age of 70; it was a lot of fun,” chuckled Nord.
Her favorite and most memorable trip was to the Holy Land.
“I got to go to the garden of Gethsemane and have communion there as well. I was able to ride on the Sea of Galilee and I watched people being baptized on the river of Jordan.”
Nord has traveled to many different places.
“I traveled with a friend and went on tours to such places as Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Austria, and Hawaii.”
After some years had passed and Nord was living in her home in Penn. by herself and realized she had enough of the cold and ice, she decided to relocate to the South. She followed her daughter and son-in-law to N.C. after Nord’s son in law took a job at Grass America a few years prior.
Many people in the area know Nord from her association with the Joyful Notes, a senior adult choir. She has been singing with the group for about five years. The group is part of the Main Street Baptist Church music program under Dawn Larkins, and meets every Tuesday for practice.
She is also well known at The Shepherd’s Center Senior Center of Kernersville, where she volunteered her time for almost 10 years. It was here that she obtained a counted cross stitch pattern and made a beautiful cross landscape of Körner’s Folly.
Nord said she met Carolyn Lowy at the Senior Center. Lowy was the one who made the pattern of the Folly from the famous 1993 painting that Kernersville artist Richard Hedgecock had painted, entitled “Spring Folly.”
Dorothy explained, “I went to her house to see her cross stitch that was up in her living room, and Carolyn gave me the pattern.”
When asked if she had any tips on living a long, full life, Nord simply recommended, “Get involved in the community and count each day as a blessing.”