She survived the Depression and now, thanks to Cardinal Ritter Senior Services, Dorothy Hess is on easy street.
101 years ago, Dorothy Hess grew up in south St. Louis. Her father had a
grocery store in the 2700 block of Chippewa Street, and she recalls
getting free cookies when she was old enough to walk into the store. It
was a German neighborhood, and the German-American women enjoyed
listening to her because she spoke both German and English as a toddler.
Hess family attended St. Thomas of Aquin Church, and she attended the
old Loretto Academy grade school and high school, except for a short
stint in the elementary years in a public school. The academy was fairly
small, and everyone knew each other, Hess said. “It was a happy time,”
But the Depression started, and it wasn’t easy to
survive. Hess’s mother put her talents to work to make ends meet, making
the family’s clothes herself, for example. Her father died, and her
sister had to quit college and get a job. “It was tight,” Hess said. “I
had to find a job also.”
Her sister introduced her to her boss, and he hired her. She made $12 a week for 46 hours, Hess recalled.
did office work there a few years before the company moved its
operations out of the area. Hess then got a job working with Internal
Revenue Service lawyers, staying there until she retired at age 65. “I
always worked with nice people,” she said.
She lived in a house in University City and attended St. Joseph Church in Clayton.
moved to Our Lady of Life apartments in 2000. Her older sister had a
serious stroke and had moved to Mary Queen and Mother Center on the
Cardinal Ritter Senior Services campus. Hess met a woman at the nursing
home whose husband was a resident. The woman had moved to Our Lady of
Life on the same campus and raved about it. That’s when Hess ended her
commute to Shrewsbury to visit her sister by moving to the apartments.
just walked over every day, spending most of the day with her each day
until she passed away,” Hess said of the convenience. Hess’ sister moved
to Our Lady of Life when her husband died. She’s now 93.
very, very comfortable here,” Hess said, heaping praise on administrator
Ann Jones. “We are treated very well. And the entertainment keeps
She took advantage of the shuttle service and
organized outings, including various mystery trips to sites in St.
Louis. One favorite site was Bussen Quarry in south St. Louis County.
advantageous is that “I don’t worry about a thing,” Hess said. If
there’s a problem, she reports it and someone comes to fix it. “That’s
the beauty of living here. I’m just so fortunate this was recommended to
Most residents don’t pay attention to the latest in
technology advances, she added. “If they need anything, they just call
their daughter,” she said.
The residents are a nice group of
people, Hess added, with a number of them having lived there since
before she arrived. Residents play cards, attend bingo and daily Mass.
all, she said, “it’s been a rather peaceful life except for the
Depression which put a big wrinkle into everything. How my mother pulled
us through those bad times we’ll never know.”
>> Cardinal Ritter Senior Services
Senior Services is the largest agency of Catholic Charities. It
provides services to elderly people in St. Louis City and St. Louis, St.
Charles, Jefferson, Franklin and Warren counties. Its purpose is to
improve the quality of life for older people through comprehensive
social, health and senior services.
The agency specializes in
“creative care for the elderly,” with programs not only for older adults
but also for employees who take care of its residents and other older
adults, the families of residents and others who seek help and the
communities Cardinal Ritter serves.
Cardinal Ritter assists people
to remain in their homes but also provides assisted living, skilled
nursing care, affordable low-income and mid-income housing and more. Its
programs provide volunteer opportunities, care for children who need
help from a grandparent-aged adult through the Foster Grandparent
Program, adult day programs, a homemaker program and more.
For information, call (314) 961-8000 or visit www.cardinalritterseniorservices.org.