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‘Here’s to you, here’s to me...’

Thanks to Dorothy Neil’s friends, the Irish lady will long be remembered in the Dutch town of Oak Harbor.

Members of Neil’s famed “koffee klatch” group, as well as other friends, family and admirers, gathered in the city’s Flintstone Park Wednesday afternoon to dedicate a pair of park benches to her memory.

Neil, the city’s resident historian and a long-time News-Times writer, died May 8, 2004, at the age of 94.

“On a clear day from here, you can see the Olympics, the Cascades, Mount Baker and Mount Rainier when sitting here,” said Dee Harbour, one of Neil’s close friends, during the dedication.

Harbour and Helen Chatfield-Weeks led the group in a toast to Dorothy, thanking her for the momentarily nice weather in an otherwise rainy week. Eyes glistened with emotion as they raised their cups and sipped a bittersweet brew of memories.

Harbour and Chatfield-Weeks raised the money, about $1,000, for the twin benches and plaques from Neil’s friends and family — particularly members of her koffee klatch. Over the last five years of her life, the group met each day at 3 p.m. to sip coffee, tell jokes and gossip about city politics. The place changed over the years, but the time stayed the same.

“She absolutely looked forward to this like you wouldn’t believe,” Chatfield-Weeks said. She explained that the group was made up an unusual mixture of people who probably wouldn’t have known each other if it was for the one common denominator — Dorothy Neil.

“It’s a strange group,” Chatfield-Weeks said. “You would think we have nothing in common, but we were all her friends.”

Members of the koffee klatch were a mix of old and new friends, PBY Memorial Foundation members, folks from the fire department, retired Navy couples, snowbirds, Norwegians, Dutch and Irish friends, and others. They included Chatfield-Weeks, Harbour, Mac and Lorraine Bailey, Jim Neil, Win Stites, Louise Wright, Wes Westlund, Herm and Mary Eerkes, Donna Stites, Reka Poole, Michael and Netsah Zylinsky, Barney and Joyce Beeksma, and Patty Cohen.

As Dorothy’s health failed, the koffee klatch started meeting at Fairhaven, the assisted living home, or friends would take her to the Daily Grind if she was feeling well. At Fairhaven, Dorothy or her son, Jim, would often play the piano and everyone would sing along. She always started out the afternoon with one of her favorite sayings: “Here’s to you, here’s to me, and if we should disagree, to heck with you, here’s to me!”

“Dorothy always had her funny sayings,” Chatfield-Weeks said. “You know, she kept us laughing the whole time.”

Harbour agreed that Dorothy’s sense of humor was one of the things that kept the group together. “When you went, you always felt better when you left,” she said. “Dorothy was so funny.”

In fact, Dorothy’s sense of humor lives on within the koffee klatch members, who still meet at the Daily Grind each Wednesday at 3 p.m. to sip coffee, tell jokes and gossip about city politics.

According to Harbour, she and Chatfield-Weeks chose the beach-side spot in Flintstone Park for the benches because it was a special place for Dorothy. Neil began her working career on Oak Harbor’s waterfront as a bookkeeper for Washington Egg and Poultry Cooperative Association. The co-op’s office was on a pier which jutted into Oak Harbor Bay near

today’s Scenic Heights area.

As Dorothy walked to work and from work each day, she noticed a person could see both mountain ranges, as well as the city marina and Maylor Point from the waterfront.

Also, Dorothy was one of the “instigators,” Harbour said, of naming the Bayview Drive park after the TV cartoon. She even wrote to Hanna-Barbera and got permission to use the name.

“It was very special to her,” Harbour said. “It’s such a nice place to be able to sit and maybe have a little lunch.”

Wednesday, the more than 35 people who gathered in the park got the chance to sit on the new benches and check out Dorothy’s favorite spot. Her granddaughters, Lisa and Cindy Tatum, came from Bellingham for the dedication ceremony. Councilwoman Sheilah Crider represented the city for the ceremony since Mayor Cohen couldn’t be present.

Harbour said she and Chatfield-Weeks picked out a verse from Dorothy’s writings for one of the plaques because they felt it was “just so Dorothy.”

It states: “A wish that every day for you will be happy from the start and may you always have good luck and a song within your heart.”

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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