Tue, May 21

Dorothy's Dream
Wood has the West in her blood and the CV library in her heart

In the summer of 1974 a rare opportunity was presented to the citizens of Camp Verde.

They offered a $25,000 grant that could be used to build a new library. At the time, the town's library was stuffed into the former town jail, a stone building that still sits across the street from the entrance to the Community Center.

The catch was that the citizens had to come up with an additional $25,000 out of their own pockets. And they had to do it in just 90 days. It was no small order for a rural community of less than 5,000 souls.

Faced with the challenge the town went to work.

Charlie German, who at the time was a teacher at Camp Verde High School, organized one of the fund-raisers. He gathered up about 100 of his students. They gathered up pledges. And one Saturday morning they all walked from the school to Clear Creek.

How much the kids raised has been lost to history. But history did record a fund-raising that was hatched from it.

German followed the kids out to Clear Creek riding in the back of the town's fire engine. As he passed through downtown, Dorothy Wood, an enthusiast of all things library, accosted Charlie from the front doorway of the Camp Verde Pharmacy, where she worked.

"In front of God and everybody, Dorothy hollers out, 'Hey, Charlie, why aren't you walking,'" German said. "I told her, 'Why should I walk when I can ride in the fire truck?' But I made the mistake of telling Dorothy I would if there was enough money in it."

Enough turned out to be $335.

A couple of weeks later, German found himself walking -- not to clear Creek but all the way to the Verde Valley Medical Center in Cottonwood.

It was not the first time Dorothy Wood hustled someone to raise money for a library. And it would not be her last.

In December 2005, Dorothy's 30-plus years of work, prodding, cajoling and haranguing others to help make the Camp Verde Library a better place, was recognized when the Camp Verde Library Endowment attached her name to the group's largest fund-raising effort yet.

It's called Dorothy's Dream, and the goal is to raise $500,000 to be invested, and the annual proceeds to be used to furnish the library.

"We chose Dorothy not only because she had done so much for the Endowment, but also because the kick off just happened to fall on her 90th birthday," German said. "With the possible exception of that day she hollered at me from the door of the pharmacy, Dorothy has worked quietly behind the scenes. Like she has always done her business."

When talking to people about Dorothy Wood, one hears words like quiet, shy, subtle and unassuming.

"She's a little bit shy. She does not like to take credit for anything. She is dedicated and she is not afraid to go to the movers and shakers when the need be. But she does it subtly," said Sharon Massey, a friend of Wood's for 40 years.

Dorothy's underlying charm is a direct result of the thoroughly western life she has lived.

She was born in Utica, N.Y., in 1916. But by the time she was a teenager she had become enamored with all things western -- horses, cowboys and life in the wide open spaces.

From her eastern home, her only way to experience that dream was by reading about it. Every week she went to the store and bought a copy of Street and Smith's Wild West Weekly to satisfy her longings.

In the back of the magazine was a section for pen pals to write. One day she decided to write and after a few tries struck up a friendship with a girl by the name of Louise Gray who lived in Hayden, Ariz.

In the summer of 1935, Dorothy and her mom drove out from New York. Her mother went on to California after deciding that Louise's family was not a bunch of outlaws, and Dorothy got to spend the summer living her western dream.

She would never be the same.

On one of the many side trips that summer, Dorothy and Louise took their horses up Arivaipa Canyon to one of the neighboring ranches. There she met one of the sons of the owner of the ranch, a man 10 years her senior, named Bert Wood.

She returned to New York at the end of the summer and took a full time job. But she could not get Arizona off her mind.

After about two years she began writing Bert. He, or somebody, wrote back.

"I'm not sure Bert wrote the first two letters, because the third one was different. It looked more like Bert's handwriting than the first two," Dorothy said.

In February 1938, Dorothy came back west. She married Bert in April. She never went back to New York.

It wasn't long before she was branding cattle and cowboying with the guys.

Dorothy and Bert would spend the rest of their lives ranching and raising premier racing quarterhorses. Bert and his prize stud horse Joe Reed II would both end up in the American Quarterhorse Association Hall of Fame.

In 1961 they purchased the Richards family's ranch east of Camp Verde.

She immediately started volunteering in town -- first at the school then with the Agricultural Extension Service and then with the library.

She helped with the first library in Camp Verde, which was little more than a set of shelves in the old Wingfield store.

She has been attached to the library ever since.

In 1999, Dorothy Wood, along with Pat Hjalmerson, Vada Lavato and Sharon Massey decided it was time to create a nonprofit organization that would serve the library into perpetuity.

The idea would soon become the Camp Verde Library endowment.

With over $110,000 it is well on its way reaching Dorothy's Dream.

"Dorothy has never asked anyone to do anything she wouldn't do herself," Massey said. "She has stamina, resolve and determination. She is one of Camp Verde's crown jewels."