Storyteller Stevenson to share life story


The Roger Tory Peterson Nature Classroom hosts Chautauqua Storytellers at 4:15 p.m. today. Photo by Greg Funka.

Beverly Hazen | Staff Writer

Dorothy Stevenson will be the Chautauqua Storyteller at 4:15 p.m. today at the Roger Tory Peterson Outdoor Classroom, located in the upper Ravine behind the Hall of Christ.

Born in Erie, Pa., in 1921, Stevenson first came to Chautauqua in 1940 as a college student looking for a good summer job. She helped serve meals at a large three-story house at a corner near the Amphitheater between Wythe Avenue and the Brick Walk.

“I remember hearing opera singer Rise Stevens that summer,” she said. “That was a highlight of the summer.”

In 1942, Stevenson graduated from Westminster College and planned to teach music but became an airline hostess instead, working for TWA domestic lines. After the war, she was assigned to flights to Egypt, Spain and India. She was deeply touched by her experience in Bombay.

“It was a life-changing experience for me,” she said.

She decided to go to McCormick Theological Seminary for church social work and met Art Stevenson, who became a Presbyterian minister.

“We married in 1948 and celebrated our 50th anniversary at Chautauqua,” she said. Their daughter, Susan McKee, is the founder of women4women-knitting4peace.

Stevenson said they started coming to Chautauqua when their kids, a daughter and son, were little.

“We first stayed in the Mary Willis House, run by the Presbyterian House, which was set up especially for families with children,” she said.

Stevenson remembers the “field” that preceded the garden in memory of Mr. & Mrs. Clyde L. Carnahan and Mr. & Mrs. Alvin C. Jackson, at the corner of Clark and Palestine avenues.

In 1979, they bought property in Chautauqua on Center Avenue, and Art Stevenson retired in 1981.

“It was wonderful to stay at Chautauqua all summer,” Dorothy Stevenson said. “St. Elmo had a pool where the Health Club is now. It was perfect for us.”

Stevenson has served as a librarian for a public school as well as a historical library and is now a resident of Denver in the winter. Art died in February after the Stevensons celebrated their 50th anniversary.

The Bird, Tree & Garden Club sponsors this event; all are welcome. The rain location is Smith Wilkes Hall.