Dorothea Jean Higgins, 87, of Edinboro, passed away peacefully at home, with her two daughters at her side, on June 8, 2011, following a brief illness. She was born in Erie on December 17, 1923, the daughter of the late Otto H. and Alice Merry Busche, and stepdaughter of Winifred Blass Busche Burger. She was predeceased by her husband, Attorney William H. Higgins (June 18, 1981), and her only sibling, Philip C. Busche, in 1987. Survivors include her two daughters: Susan Elizabeth Packard and her husband, Dennis H. Packard, of Edinboro, PA, and Christine Merry Smith of Houston, Texas.
Dorothea graduated from Academy High School in the February class of 1941. She loved to sing, was a proud member of the school choir, and felt honored to be selected prom queen. Following high school, she completed 2 years in the Home Economics program at Mercyhurst College. In 1943, she started work as a technician in the physics lab at Hammermill Paper Company and took a hiatus from her educational pursuit. In 1963, she returned to college. She earned the additional credits required for completion of her teaching degree and graduated from Edinboro State College in January 1968. Immediately upon her graduation, she accepted a teaching position at Cambridge Springs Elementary. After teaching sixth grade for 1 year, she taught at the second-grade level. She often joked that she must have been a “slow learner,” as she was in second grade for 22 years! She was able to create a very special bond with her students. Following her retirement in May of 1990, many of her former students kept in contact with her throughout the years.
In Edinboro, where she resided for 56 years, Dorothea was very active in her church and community, having held many leadership positions. As a member of the First United Presbyterian Church of Edinboro, Dorothea sang in the choir (with the distinction as the most senior choir member) and served as a Deacon and Elder in her church. She was a past president of the Shadbush Club of Edinboro and took an active role in scholarship work, reading essays submitted to the Shadbush Club by high school students. At Shadbush banquets, she presented awards to selected recipients. In another leadership role, she served as past president of Alpha Delta Kappa (ADK), an International Honorary Sorority for Women Educators.
Dorothea was an active member of the Town and Country Garden Club for more than 40 years. She was a longtime treasurer for this club and also served as past president. In 1995, she initiated the idea of a plant sale as a fund-raiser and hosted this annual event at her home for 16 years. Among her other activities, she was a member and past president of the Edinboro Book Review Club, an Edinboro Area Historical Society member, a Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees (PASR) member, and past member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
Additionally, Dorothea served on the Board of Directors for the Sarah A. Reed Retirement Center over a 17-year period. As chairperson, she spearheaded Sarah’s Fall Fling, a fund-raising event for Sarah Reed. Each year for the Fall Fling, there was never anyone more passionately involved in ticket sales than Dorothea. Few escaped her invitation to purchase a ticket for the Fling; she maintained the distinction as the leader in ticket sales year after year. As an ADK member, she took part in calling BINGO for residents at the Sarah A. Reed Retirement Center each year, beginning in 1980. She fully immersed herself in projects designed to improve the lives of residents at Sarah Reed.
Among Dorothea’s other volunteer activities, she enjoyed selling fifty-fifty tickets for the Erie Playhouse and was a volunteer for WQLN Public Broadcasting of Northwest Pennsylvania during pledge campaigns. One of her favorite pastimes was listening to WQLN radio. As recently as April 2011, she recorded a commercial on WQLN describing the value of public radio in her life. Her involvement in volunteer work was truly remarkable. In recognition of her senior volunteerism, she was presented with the Charles B. Killinger Award at the Greater Erie Community Action Committee (GECAC) 37th Annual Dinner in 2007.
Dorothea had many interests. She was an avid reader, bird-watcher, gardener, and loved to travel. She enjoyed entertaining and trying out new recipes. Joining her friends for lunch was among her true pleasures. Dorothea was well known as a joke teller. She had a genuine interest in others and loved being with people.
Dorothea took great pride in her home. Through the age of 86, she was frequently spotted on her 1964 International Cub Tractor mowing her multi-acre lawn. Throughout her life, she was spontaneous, full of life, and always had a joke to tell. She was a thoughtful, loyal friend who enjoyed helping others. Dorothea was a vibrant and active woman, even at the age of 87. Her philosophy was, “do good for others, enjoy your life, and be happy.”
The family of Dorothea would like to extend a very special thanks to the relatives and many friends who visited her and/or sent cards, notes, flowers, or food in recent months. Dorothea was truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. She valued everyone’s friendship.
Friends and family are invited to attend a 5:00 PM memorial service scheduled for Monday, June 13, 2011, at the First United Presbyterian Church of Edinboro, 4281 Route 6N, Edinboro, PA 16412, officiated by the Rev. Matt Falco. A reception celebrating the life of Dorothea is scheduled to follow the service. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to: WQLN Public Media, 8425 Peach Street, Erie, PA 16509; Erie City Mission, 1023 French Street, Erie, PA 16501-2003; or the First United Presbyterian Church of Edinboro.