Northwestern Ohio lost a great one last week with the death of Dottie Anderson Shelton, 86, of Bluffton.
She lived a life of which movies are made.
No one dared telling her what she could or couldn’t do — especially when it came to airplanes. The notion in the 1930s that flying was a “guy thing” never registered with Dottie as a young woman. She ended up piloting an airplane at age 18 before she knew how to drive a car.
“My dad decided if people would let me fly airplanes, he’d let me drive the car,” she once said.
It just wasn’t flying airplanes that intrigued Dottie. She also enjoyed racing airplanes, so much so, that she was competing right up to age 85. She even built her own airplane, a Pitts Special, that did acrobatics. She became a flight instructor in 1948 and taught hundreds of students how to fly.
In what turned out to be a wonderful coincidence, Dottie grew up a mile and a half from where the Bluffton Airport was built in the mid-1940s. It quickly became her second home. At one point or another, she did almost everything at the airport — keeping the books, washing windows, giving plane tours and teaching people how to be a pilot.
In a letter published Sunday in The Lima News, Thurman Grass, president of the Bluffton Sky Pirates Club, said whenever he visits out-of-state airports and mentions he’s from Bluffton, someone invariably asks about Dottie. They would tell stories about ”how tough she was and at the same time how she ‘mothered’ every student she ever met.”
Through the years, newspaper interviews painted her as the colorful character she was.
During the early stages of the Astronaut Training Program in Colorado, Dottie was offered the opportunity to join. She turned it down, however, out of the loyalty to her friends at the Bluffton Airport.
“It was a really busy time at the airport and they were shorthanded,” she explained.
On her love for flying, she noted, “It’s like an illness, it’s like a bug. Once you get it, you can’t get rid of it.”
She took her first airplane ride in a Ford Trimotor at the age of 8.
“I think my folks hoped I’d get airsick so they let me go,” she said.
Dottie would go on to log more than 40,000 hours, including 32 air races. She also took part in weekend races in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. Her last race was just over a year ago when she competed in the 2011 Air Race Classic, an annual cross-country jaunt. She was 85 years old at the time.
Dottie Anderson Shelton died on Dec. 8 at the Mennonite Memorial Home in Bluffton, where she had resided for several weeks.
Her obituary noted she married Lloyd Shelton of Bowling Green in 2004. He died in June. Her closest surviving family are two nieces.
Dottie owned two planes in recent years and on the ground drove a 2005 red Mustang that always had a shine to it.
This area may never see anyone like Dottie Anderson again.
ROSES AND THORNS: The Christmas spirit is growing in the garden.
Rose: To Teresa Coleman and her husband, John Turntine, of Lima. Earlier this year they began adopting a 2-year-old boy. When they learned the child had two older siblings, ages 6 and 5, they welcomed them all into their home. This will be the first Christmas the children have a tree.
Rose: To 6th Ward Councilman Derry Glenn, who spent Saturday night at Lima Rescue Mission to raise awareness and cash donations for the homeless men’s shelter.
Rose: About 2,500 children will receive gifts from the Toys for Tots campaign in Lima, about 800 more than last year.
Rose: Eagle Railcar Service in Cairo plans to expand its facility and hire 28 full-time employees.
Rose: To the mystery woman who approached customers at the eastside Walmart and gave them $50. “I was dumbfounded and just froze,” said Samanthia Pettigrew, one of at least two people to receive the gift.
Thorn: To Mike Edelbrock, president of United Steelworkers Local 624. After a contract was ratified Thursday, he would not release the contract details or the vote count. Union members were on strike 131 days over “worker rights” issues such as the ability to trade shifts and fatigue and safety standards. While 240 people went on strike when it began, the union now has about 160 members with some crossing the picket line and others retiring or quitting for other jobs.
Thorn: To Christopher Lee Kirby, of Lima, who was charged with theft by deception because police said he pocketed funds that were solicited for an 8-year-old girl with cancer.
Thorn: Twice in a span of three days culprits stole the yard decorations off the porch of Marilyn Giesige, of Lima.
PARTING SHOT: Thanks to credit cards, some people have the Christmas spirit 12 months a year.