Dorothy Ruth Harrison
Dorothy Ruth Harrison

September 5, 1922 - August 1, 2022
Born in Jacksonville, IL
Resided in Madrid, Iowa
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Dorothy Ruth (Todd) Harrison unexpectedly passed away August 1, 2022, just a month shy of her 100th birthday. She was planning a big party for that special day, and she was a little put out when she realized on her deathbed at Boone County Hospital that she couldn’t quite make it. But a touch of pneumonia and a few other maladies didn’t blight her outlook. She was cracking wise and smiling with her daughter, Jill, and son, Ross, as she rested comfortably knowing her birthday would still be celebrated, not with her person but with her loving spirit.

Born September 5, 1922, in Jacksonville, IL to George Freeman Todd and Frances Elizabeth (Brokaw) Todd, Dorothy was the first of two daughters to make up the family on a small farm in western Illinois. They moved to Springfield, IL a few years later, then to Eagle Grove, IA where her dad continued in the farming business. At age 11, she and her family moved to Ames, IA where her dad began his own grain elevator construction business that today continues to thrive throughout the Midwest under the name of Todd and Sargent.

It was her mother’s underlying intention to take advantage of being close to Iowa State College (now University) so that Dorothy and sister, Edythe, could receive a sound education. Both girls graduated, and Dorothy pursued her career in Home Economics and Household Equipment with Sears & Roebucks test kitchens in Chicago. But another Ames resident and ISC graduate, Harry Harrison, cut short her career when they married in 1944 and moved to Folly Beach, South Carolina, where he was a lieutenant in the US Coast Guard. The first of their three children, Jill, was born there where they remained until the end of WWII.

Harry began his career with the State Conservation Commission after the war and the family chose Madrid as its home. Two sons were born to them, H. Todd, and Ross T. and Dorothy discovered new avenues in which to apply her college lessons. Dorothy designed, and Harry dutifully followed her lead in the creation of a home unlike most others. Dorothy’s galley kitchen is as efficient as any mother of three would like. The 3, 6-foot by 5-foot picture windows in the walnut-clad living room overlook a patio nearly as large as the house itself. Harry passed away in 1992, but Dorothy continued living and lounging in their dream home for 3 decades longer, enjoying her self-made independence and the view through those windows as she read hundreds of novels, news magazines, and newspapers. She loved that house so much that she wrote a book about it, with the help of granddaughter Amy, resplendent with photographs dating back to the early 50’s.

Most dream-like lives have their dark moments. Dorothy’s was the loss of Todd in the Vietnam war in 1969. Years masked her sadness. How can you rise above such a thing? She has explained that you don’t. Part of you always has that darkness. You just live with it. Time takes away the shock. Time evades sadness.

Dorothy was active in her community. She enjoyed Madrid Garden Club’s potlucks, couples' and ladies' bridge clubs, Chapter ID P.E.O. (70+ years), church circles and committees with the Madrid First Methodist Church and later at Saint Paul’s Church of Christ. Perhaps her favorite activity was her work on the Boone County Conservation Board. Long before it became a reality, Dorothy considered that a bike trail over the Des Moines River west of Madrid would be a worthy investment for public funding.

For 17 years, Dorothy worked for the editorial department of the Des Moines Register, an occupation she treasured and which helped her figure out what was wrong with the world, and what was right about it. There were Pulitzer Prize winning editorial writers in that department back then. She absorbed their views of politics and local and world events. She provided organizational support and good will to those writers so they could excel in their craft, and they loved her for it.

In her later years, Dorothy was quite content, seated in her primary chair before her large windows, deep into a mystery novel or a news magazine. If it rained, that was fine by her. Snow, even better. Life was good to her, and she enjoyed it immensely.

Dorothy was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Harry, son Todd Harrison, and Jill’s husband Jeff Peterson.

She is survived by sister Edythe and husband Bill Glass, daughter Jill Peterson, son Ross and wife Jani Harrison, and grandchildren Justin Peterson, Jay Peterson and his son Hayes and daughter Joslyn, Amy and husband Brian Sieman and sons Finnegan and Henry, Matt and wife Heather Harrison and son Miles and daughter Halle, Casey and wife Abbie Harrison and son Harry and daughter Robin. Also surviving are step families Chad and Amy Wilkerson and families, Corey and Tammy Wilkerson and family, and Sara Klien and daughters, and Todd’s wife Carolyn McClanahan.

There will be a Celebration of Life for Dorothy on her 100th birthday, September 5,2022 at 4:00 PM at Saint Paul’s Church, Madrid.




Celebration of Life
St. Paul's United Church of Christ
115 S. Cedar Street
Madrid, IA US 50156
Monday, September 5, 2022
4:00 PM