Canzano: Dottie is forever at her husband's side
Dottie Schonely died on Thursday night.
Dottie Schonely was forever at her husband’s side. You may have noticed her over the years at events, smiling, her hair done and dressed impeccably.
It couldn’t have been easy when her husband, Bill, died last month. I saw Dottie at the funeral. She sat in a wheelchair, insisting it be parked closest to his casket.
Dottie died on Thursday night.
She was 92.
There hasn’t been enough written or said about the woman who attended all those games with that legendary NBA-broadcaster husband of hers. Dottie much preferred to sit off to the side, talking 1-on-1, allowing her husband to pose for photographs and tell stories to a group.
Who was Dottie Schonely?
She loved to garden and was a musician. She played the church organ. Dottie’s father was a pastor, who died when she was just four months old. Her mother, alone with two children, raised Dottie and her older brother by taking a job at a funeral home. They lived in an apartment above the place.
Over the years, I’d call the Schonely residence. Dottie would always answer. Before I could ask, “How are you? What’s new?” she’d already handed the phone to the man who called her the love of his life.
“I got Dottie to marry me,” Bill liked to say. “I must have made my free throws.”
Dottie and Bill met at Norristown High School in Pennsylvania in the 1940s. She was a year behind him in school. After graduating, Bill joined the Marines and left to see the world. He became a baseball, hockey and basketball broadcaster. He got married and had children. Then came a divorce. It wasn’t until a few weeks before his 40th high school reunion that he reconnected with his old flame in a surprise telephone call.
‘The Schonz’ found Dottie’s number and dialed it.
She picked up.
“You don’t know who this is, do you?” he said.
“How can I ever forget that sexy voice?” she replied.
They married four years later in 1991.
It will be said that Dottie died from complications of old age. But I’d argue that it was a broken heart that got her.
Researchers at Harvard University have studied “the widowhood effect.” They tracked tens of thousands of elderly married couples. Turns out widows have a 66 percent increased chance of dying in the first three months after losing a spouse.
Dottie made it 33 days without Bill.
The last two years were particularly hard on the couple. The pandemic left them isolated. Dottie fell down last year and spent a few days in the hospital. Bill caught coronavirus and landed in the ICU. They decided a few months ago to leave their long-time home in Charbonneau and move into a two-bedroom apartment in a senior retirement home in Lake Oswego.
I visited them at their new place just a week before Bill’s death. When I walked in, Dottie was seated at the kitchen table in her bathrobe, eating breakfast. Bill was in the adjacent room, in a giant chair in front of the television, sipping coffee.
Dottie had an appointment at the hair salon later that morning. A close family friend, Kevin Fode, planned to drive her. Bill’s legs weren’t functioning well. His back was aching. He had a series of medical appointments and treatments that jammed up his day.
“I’m ready to go,” he told me.
Dottie was too, it turns out.
I don’t know how you will remember Bill and Dottie Schonely. I’m sure you met them over the years at a game, or in a grocery store, or at church. Just about everyone had a Schonely encounter. I’ll always remember Bill and Dottie together.
Because they always were, weren’t they?
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So sad! Excellent (but sad) follow up John. Couples like them so frequently pass closely to one another. Sappy to admit, but dying of a broken heart… it’s real.
Very nice tribute John. As the Schonely's neighbor for about 10 years in Charbonneau, it was a privilege to get to know Dottie outside of Bill's "shadow." Wonderful gardener, always impeccably dressed, very sweet, and a class act. I wondered how long she would last without Bill. Praise that they're both in heaven together!