Longtime local woman faces fight of her life


Indomitable. Unstoppable. Unassailable. Unbowed. Loving. Mirthful. Warm. In small measure, such adjectives capture just who Dodie Brueggeman Orlando is.

The spirited longtime area resident is one of those unquenchably positive people who charges headlong into life, right through Type 1 diabetes diagnosed at age 8 and through blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy three months after she wed and at the end of her college freshman year.

She plowed on three years later following a divorce. She persevered seven years more when she and her then husband adopted daughter Nikki Rochell Brueggeman in May 1990. Forward she went when they moved to Walla Walla in 1991 and onward into single parenthood in 2001.

“The challenges of raising a daughter as a blind mommy did not thwart Dodie as she surmounted each obstacle with her characteristic inimitable style, generously seasoned with humor and a positive outlook,” wrote sister Dixie Cramer of Walla Walla.

“Dodie (also) found time to volunteer at Nikki’s school as an aid, cooking lunches and assisting with secretarial duties.”

She’s justifiably proud of her daughter, who graduated with honors in May from Washington State University with a bachelor’s in Asian studies and is now earning her master’s in Asian studies at the University of Washington.

Dodie’s having to marshall all her inner resources as on Oct. 3 she was diagnosed with serous adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that is currently present in her cervix, uterus, ovaries, abdominal area and neck, Dixie said. The course of treatment will consist of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

She expects treatment to commence shortly at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Initial treatment could be from six weeks to four months, depending upon the course and could extend her life up to five years, Dixie said. Dodie and husband Eugene “Dakota” Orlando are staying in a patient housing facility in the Seattle area.

“The cost of their housing, along with the treatments will be prohibitive, even with insurance,” Dixie said.

The Toppenish, Wash., native was born May 7, 1952, to David and Donna Ritchie. She grew up with Dixie and their two brothers, Dave Ritchie of Fort Collins, Colo., and Dan Ritchie of Jackson, Miss. Her parents later settled in College Place.

A woman of boundless energy and positive thinking, Dodie was active in United Blind of Walla Walla.The installation of audible traffic signals heard chirping in downtown Walla Walla came at her urging. And with guide dog Jet she visited numerous schools that invited her to help students learn about the visually impaired and guide dogs.

With Nikki in her teens, the pair explored Washington, D.C., Europe, Japan and most recently Mexico. Meanwhile Dodie trained to teach Simply Music piano lessons and had a studio of up to 18 students.

“She surmounted each obstacle with creativity and determination, inspiring her students most effectively,” said Dixie, also a Simply Music teacher.

“She was always able to diffuse frustration with humor and fun. In meeting her own challenges as a blind piano teacher, Dodie also spent unpaid countless hours of time making the Simply Music materials and curriculum accessible to other visually impaired teachers and students.”

She met Dakota when he became her piano student and taught until this last June. The couple wed on May 31 and moved to Reno, Nev., for the climate.

Because of these latest health developments Dodie was forced just weeks ago to part with beloved black standard poodle Reta, who without ongoing reinforcement could lose her guide dog training, Dixie said.

A petite blonde, “Dodie and her guide dogs were a familiar sight around town on their daily walks and errands. Even during the interim between guide dogs, Dodie, undaunted, continued to be out and about with her trusty white cane, getting her daily walks, taking care of business and meeting with friends,” Dixie said.

“She moves with purpose and without fear, in spite of numerous falls and collisions with stationary objects, resulting in several visits to the ER for treatments ranging from a broken foot to a shattered nose.”

Dixie hopes friends and neighbors will make donations to assist the Orlandos with the costs of Dodie’s cancer treatment, which can be made at any branch of Banner Bank to the Dodie (Brueggeman) Orlando Fund.

“Residents who know Dodie well and those who only know who she is have alike been inspired by her courage, tenacity, humor and zest for living. It is because of Dodie’s visibility and inspiration to the community that this opportunity is being provided to give back to her in a tangible way to make it possible for her to continue touching lives with her love and indomitable spirit,” Dixie said.

On a recent Saturday, more than 203 area members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contributed more than 800 hours of community service on 20 separate projects in Walla Walla, College Place, Touchet and Milton-Freewater, said David Walk.

Working closely with Catholic Charities of Walla Walla on nine of the projects, volunteers scraped and painted a home, cleared trees and brush, did home cleaning, yard work and other home renovation projects for the elderly and homebound.

“We appreciated the fellowship and communal aspect of the work the volunteers did. We are very grateful to have the homebound served so well,” said T. Marie Melton, Volunteer Chore Service manager for Catholic Charities.

Additionally, veterans’ tombstones in Mountain View Cemetery were thoroughly cleaned, a trailer in Milton-Freewater got a new roof, an iron fence bordering the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds was painted.

Fifty-three hand-embroidered, hand-stitched quilts were made for the women’s shelter in Walla Walla, 41 for adults and 12 for babies.

“These are our gifts to women and children in the shelter. They will use them and take them with them when they leave. It has been a phenomenal labor of love. I am in tears. This has been amazing,” said Lanette Bendixsen, while surveying the handiwork.

“My neighbor is in his 70s and one day I said to him, ... ‘I’m going to help you with your yard.’ I called the city to ask for help locating more volunteers,” said Tiffany Maurer, who began work on her neighbor’s yard 10 weeks ago. Her request eventually made its way several weeks ago to LDS Community Service Day organizers who added her project to their upcoming event.

Tiffany continued her work for weeks until joined on Saturday by more than a dozen LDS volunteers. “People from Pendleton, Dayton and Walla Walla showed up and helped me finish this project. It’s been awesome,” she said.

Former 59-year Walla Walla resident and retired teacher Louise Goulet celebrated her 100th birthday on Sept. 4, 2013, in Fallbrook, Calif., according to daughter Janice Goulet Keith.

Louise especially enjoyed math and religion subjects and taught fifth grade for several years at St. Patrick’s and Assumption School, Janice said.

Louise was born in Fargo, N.D., the last surviving sibling of eight children.

She and Paul J. Goulet married in Minot, N.D., in 1940 and Janice was born in 1941.

While still a baby, wee Janice attended the one-room school in which her mom taught and sat in a high chair in the classroom, as her father was unsuccessfully looking for work in North Dakota.

He answered an ad in the newspaper for a job in Walla Walla with Western Auto, a shop that sold appliances and bicycles, when it was located across the street from the old Sears store on Main Street.

In 1942 Paul sent for Louise and Janice and they headed out here by train. They lived on South Third Avenue.

Louise “was quite a strict teacher but all her students loved her because she took the time to develop caring relationships with them. Through the years, many would greet her on Main Street or in the grocery store,” Janice said.

She was also a supervisor at Birds Eye and a bookkeeper at Darigold Dairy. A member of St. Patrick’s Parish, she attended the Charismatic Prayer Group and for many years held the post of sacristan, the official in charge of the sacred vessels, vestments and other articles of the church.

She was a member of and held all of the offices including president of the Eagles Aerie Auxiliary. Both avid bowlers, Louise and Paul acquired many trophies.

Paul died in 2004 and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery. Louise went to live with Janice after that.

Louise’s son, James Goulet, lives in The Villages, Fla. She has six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

She and Paul were godparents to several children who still reside in Walla Walla, Janice said.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or 526-8313.


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