This is a story of family, art and a circle of caring. If you stay with me to the end you will see why last week tears rolled freely from my eyes.
My dad, Jack Dorsey, grew up on a 50 acre farm in Redmond, WA with his older brother, Bob, his dad Bert, and mom Emma. Another brother named Chuck Bay who was thirteen years older, the son of Emma and her first husband, Charles Bay, Sr., lived a mile or so away from their farm.
Dad always felt close to his brother Chuck. He loved him like a full brother and looked up to him as like a kid brother looks up to a big brother. There were lots of reasons to look up to Chuck. Chuck attended Lake Washington High School and graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in forestry. He served in the Navy and we have a sweet picture of Chuck with his arms around his younger brothers Jack and Bob.
Chuck stumbled upon a beautiful gal named JoAnne, whose dad Ben and mom Emily Stenquist owned Redmond Cleaners, a dry cleaner shop in downtown Redmond. Apparently Chuck noticed the young lady working at the store and began to visit on a weekly basis to get his shirts dry cleaned. It worked. In 1953 Chuck and JoAnne married. Chuck worked for lumber companies, first to in Portland where their first child, Bobbie Jo (1954) was born, and then in Missoula where their second, Bryan (1957) was born. Chuck and JoAnne returned to Redmond, and then he returned back to his home in Redmond where he was a successful salesman for United Lumber, a Redmond based lumber company, who worked on major construction projects and later at a cabinet shop owned by Bill Sherman. In Redmond, Becky (1959) and Brad (1962) joined the family, making the Bay family a tribe of six.
Chuck and JoAnne opened their heart and home to our family. Their family, including all four kids, celebrated Dad and Mom’s wedding on Easter Sunday, 1966.
I remember at Christmas visiting what seemed to me to be their very wealthy and spacious home in Redmond. We did that many times, and always received Christmas gifts from our Uncle Chuck and Aunt JoAnne. That meant a lot because by that time we were a typical struggling artist family, trying to make ends meet. When Dad launched on his full time art career in 1969, Chuck was very supportive. He purchased many of Dad’s paintings over the years. He also encouraged his friends to buy his younger brother’s art. Bill Sherman held an “art party” at his beautiful home in Redmond and invited his well-heeled friends. Bill himself purchased a large painting. In November 2015, when we had moved to Redmond and visited Aunt JoAnne’s condo, I took photos of the amazing display of paintings that Chuck and JoAnne bought over the years. Here they are. Sorry about the glare on the glass.
Over the years, the Bay family grew and the Dorsey family grew too. They lived in Redmond. We lived on Camano Island. But still the brothers stayed connected.
Chuck came to Stanwood to watch some of my Little League baseball games, and attended an all star game I played in in Everett. He had time for us. Dad shared what was most valuable to him: his faith. Dad remembers once walking off the Mt. Si golf course and sharing about how you could have a personal relationship with Jesus. Chuck turned to him and said that he had not heard about that before. Even if he was not a believer, he was respectful of Dad’s faith. Uncle Chuck had had a bout with cancer decades before. Sadly, the cancer returned. He and JoAnne drove up to Camano to share with Dad and Mom that his cancer had returned. Here are some pictures from that visit, in the early 1980s.
After the recurrence of cancer, Chuck arranged for a dinner with his siblings at the Everett Pacific Hotel. Chuck wanted Bob and his wife Jan, Jack and Ann and him and JoAnne to be together at least one last time. “He probably paid for it,” Dad says. “That’s the way he was.” Dad was working at Boeing and sometimes instead of driving north to Camano he would visit Chuck and Joan in their new home in Bellevue. He visited him too at the University of Washington hospital. It was hard for Dad to see his strong, successful brother so thin. Chuck passed away June 4, 1986.
There’s something very loyal about Dad. He did love Chuck and appreciated everything that Chuck had ever done. He wanted to be in the lives of his kids, like Chuck had taken an interest in us. Over the years he kept in the lives of JoAnne, Bobbie Jo, Brian, Becky and Brad by making an occasional visit or phone call to them or by writing a letter. I’m sure he kept sharing his faith when he could. Bobbie Jo got met a great guy and had a successful career at the University of Washington. Brian got a job at a little company called Microsoft. He worked in the shipping department and was fortunate to get early stock options. Becky got married and moved to California and had two kids. Brad worked at restaurants as a cook, and his happy go lucky make him fun to be with, if not always responsible.
When our family moved to Redmond in Fall of 2015 I was eager to reconnect with my “Redmond” family. By that time, Becky was living with her mom, providing care giving to Aunt Joan. Dad and Mom and I had a chance to visit their beautiful condo in downtown Kirkland that looks over Lake Washington. It was so fun to see JoAnne, Bobbi Jo (who happened to stop by) and Brian too. Mom was then in the middle of her bout with Cancer.
JoAnne passed away a couple of years ago. Then, tragically and suddenly, in 2019, Brian passed away. Not having children, he left his inheritance, in part, to his siblings. A few months ago, I posted a few of Dad’s paintings on facebook. Becky reached out to me and said that she just had to have one. So Dad got it framed, and he and mom delivered it to Becky. With the pandemic, it’s been a hard year for artists. Dad was super encouraged by Becky’s purchase, just like when her dad Chuck had purchased paintings so many years ago.
This brings me to last week and the tears that I shed.
Here’s that story.
Our son, Judah, had come home for Spring break. I noticed that the tires on the Ford Focus that Judah is using for transportation at college in Salem, OR needed to be replaced. I took it to Costco to get the tires replaced. The bill was $720. I thought about asking Judah to pick up $200 or so of the bill. But remembered that he’s a college student. Plus he was going through a difficult situation. I thought: “No, you can’t make Judah pay. Dads help their kids. Dads buy tires for the their kid’s car when they are college. That’s just what dads do. Suck it up!” Still, sucking it up is easier said than done. I gritted my teeth and paid the bill. And drove the car home.
When I got home I looked at my messages and saw one from Bobbie Jo. She said that she was interested in buying two of Dad’s paintings, the salmon lures.
And she said that she wanted to bid on the following three paintings:
As I shared with Judah what had happened, tears fell freely from my eyes.
Why was I crying?
I was crying because the 20% commission that we take from these paintings will cover 2X the cost of the tires.
I was crying because like Dad I believe in a personal God who cares.
I was crying because I had been reminded that God is able to provide in ways we could never imagine.
I was crying because of the beauty of family.
Most of all, I was crying because of the circle of caring that I had witnessed! Chuck’s caring for Dad; Dad’s caring for Chuck’s family; and now Chuck’s kids caring for Dad. Through their care for Dad, and reached all the way to our little family all the way back in Redmond after all of these years.