2011-09-29 / Obituaries

Doreen ‘Doi’ DeWitt

Doreen Mary DeWitt (“Doi”) passed peacefully after a short illness in Stockton at the age of 99.

She was born on April 7, 1912 in Bagnor Manor, Speer, County of Berks, England, to Henry Lewis Baverstock and Norah Kathleen Baverstock. The family, including her two brothers, John and Richard, moved to America in 1922, settling in Long Beach. Her dad worked as a carpenter and a cabinet maker, and her mother worked as a cook in a Long Beach hospital. Doi was valedictorian for her high school graduating class of 1930 at Woodrow Wilson High School. On a golf outing with her brother, she couldn’t locate the ball after teeing off, until they checked the cup. A hole in one.

She went on to study at the University of California at Los Angeles, receiving her bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1934. While at UCLA, she studied theater arts, designing and constructing costumes. Here she met her future husband, Bob DeWitt, an artist who asked to borrow some of her expensive German paints and promptly used all of them up. Bob and Doi were married Dec. 28, 1940, and settled in Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles County, where Bob established a real estate business, while creating his ceramics and paintings. Bob and Doi raised five children; Norah Kathleen, Robert Lewis (Bobby), Eileen Mary (Ikey), Elizabeth Doreen (Betsy), and William Robert (Billy). They also raised cows, goats, chickens, ponies, and some pet dogs and cats.

Doi and her daughter Norah established the area’s first organic restaurant, Norah Kathleen’s Bake Shop, where the home made whole wheat bread was the most popular item. The restaurant also became a performance venue for jazz and folk concerts, featuring Woody Guthrie, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Pete Seeger, Cisco Houston, Odetta, Lord Buckley, and many other musicians and performers. Doi was featured in plays in Will Geer’s Topanga Folk Theatre just down the road from her home.

Bob and Doi moved to their beloved Red Mountain Ranch in Mariposa County in 1963, and enjoyed a life full of art work, concerts, organic gardening, and ranching. Doi was one of the founding members of the Mariposa Arts Council, and opened up her garden for mentoring to elementary school classes who made field trips to Red Mountain Ranch. Over more than 25 years, Doi and Bob promoted concerts in Oakhurst and Mariposa benefitting the Finegold Trust, featuring performers such as Utah Phillips, Kate Wolf, and Jesse Winchester.

A video documentary was made of Doi and Bob in 2002 by her good friend, Susie Hickman, and videographer Ron Hendershott.

After Bob passed away in 2007, Doi continued to maintain her lifestyle on the ranch, working in her garden until just 18 months before her passing, when she moved to Stockton to live with her daughter Norah. Doi enjoyed her new friends at the O’Conner Woods Fitness Center and her Quail Lakes neighbors during her afternoon walks.

Doi is survived by her children Norah, Bobby (Jan), Ikey (Bob), and Billy (Cheyenne), 10 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren, her sister-in-law Eileen Murphy, and numerous nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents, her two brothers, her husband Bob, and her daughter Betsy. Her life was well lived, and she will be missed by all who knew and loved her.

Arrangements are being handled by Park View Funeral Home, Manteca, California. A celebration of Doi’s life will be scheduled at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Hospice of San Joaquin or to the charity of the donor’s choice.

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