Semper Fi

Posted by in Community Spotlights.

Cardinal Village resident Dorothy (Peterson) Dinnauer is known for a love for her country and a keen sense of adventure, qualities that have served her well over the years. As a young woman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dorothy was quite athletic, an exceptional swimmer and tennis player, and it’s no surprise to team members at Cardinal Village to hear that Dorothy was still running 5k races well into her 80’s. Says Linda George, Director of Memory Care, “I totally believe it. I would say she’s never stopped!” Dorothy’s caregivers at Cardinal Village agree, noting that as soon as Dorothy finishes breakfast each day, she’s ready for whatever is next. Whether the activity is painting, playing bingo, listening to music, crafting or games, Dorothy is eager to participate.

Dorothy celebrated her 98th birthday at Cardinal Village on November 10th, a birthdate she is proud to share with the United States Marine Corps. Her respect for this branch of service goes well beyond the coincidence of a shared birthdate, however. She says she’s always admired what the Marines represented, noting that “I liked their way of doing business. Everything was on the up and up. You knew what you had to do and what was expected of you.” Angela Carter, Director of Sales and Marketing at Cardinal Village, says that reflects Dorothy’s personality perfectly, noting that Dorothy is always forthright and faithful, qualities Marines are known for.

When the military asked for female recruits during World War II, Dorothy knew immediately that she would volunteer, and unlike most others, she knew which branch she’d join: the Marine Corps, the one she felt she was born to be part of. Says Dorothy, “They said they needed help so I said, ‘I’ll go.’ I really wanted to help the country.” Dorothy recalls the increased sense of purpose that followed the bombing of Pearl Harbor and like many others, she remembers exactly where she was when she heard the news: she was working as a secretary at Northwestern Mutual Insurance. In the aftermath of the attack that happened on December 7th, 1941, she recalls, “Families were broken apart, and people were learning about their loved ones who were gone. There were a bunch of young people who signed up right after that.” Dorothy served in the Signal Battalion from 1943 to 1946, working as a secretary in San Diego and San Francisco, processing paperwork for men returning from service in the Pacific. “They didn’t talk much about what they saw,” she recalls.

After the war, Dorothy returned to Milwaukee where she met her husband John, also a fellow Marine. She recalls that John was too shy to speak to her directly, so he would toss pebbles at her feet as she walked to the bus stop after work. John and Dorothy married and raised three children, passing on Marine Corps values and a “very strong ethical and moral fiber”, says daughter Sue. “We were taught there’s a right way and a wrong way. If you’re going to do something, you do it right or you don’t do it at all.” Retired Marine lieutenant colonel, a friend of Dorothy’s agrees, “When she talks, everybody, regardless of rank, respects her service and commitment and the fact that 70-some years later, she’s still proud she wore the eagle, globe and anchor. She has my total respect and that of so many other Marines.”

Clearly, for Dorothy, the Marine motto Semper Fi (Always Faithful) is more than a phrase, it’s a way of life.

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