Marie Campanella Dorris, 92, teacher and artist

Marie Petrina (Campanella) Bell Dorris passed away in Ridgefield, Connecticut on August 24th, 2012 at the age of 92.

She was the eldest daughter of Salvatore (Sam) Campanella and Giuseppa Lo Vecchio.  She was born December 27th, 1919 in Monreale, Sicily, Italy.

After emigrating through Ellis Island in 1921, the family moved to DuQuoin, Illinois. Her father and six uncles had emigrated there prior to World War I to work in the coal mines of Southern Illinois.

Mrs. Dorris’ father went back to Sicily to serve in the Italian Army during World War I, and returned to the United States with his bride and two children after the war.  In 1926, the family was naturalized and took the name “Bell,” basing it on the meaning of “Campanella,” a bell-shaped flower in Sicily.

Mrs. Dorris attended Sacred Heart Catholic School and was the first woman of Italian descent in DuQuoin to complete high school and then college, at Southern Illinois Normal University [now Southern Illinois University] in Carbondale, Illinois where she graduated in 1942 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English.

She taught at Hurst-Bush High School and later at Shawneetown High School in Southern Illinois.  After a brief period of homemaking, she returned to teaching, later serving as a primary school teacher in both Homer and Payson, Illinois.

She married Dr. Troy Clyde Dorris on June 5th 1943.  The couple met as students at Southern Illinois and Dr. Dorris later completed his PhD. at the University of Illinois.  In 1954 the family moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma where her husband was a tenured professor in the Zoology Department at Oklahoma State University and the founder of the Aquatic Ecology Laboratory.

During her time in Stillwater, Mrs. Dorris raised two sons and was active in both the Oklahoma Garden Club and The Stillwater China Painting Club, which she served as President from 1971 to 1979.  She was an avid gardener, as her father had been before her and took great pride in the chrysanthemums and roses she contributed to adorn the altar at St. Francis Xavier Church in Stillwater, her home parish.

The Dorris’ divorced in the mid-1980’s and Mrs. Dorris joined the staff of Oklahoma State University where she worked in admissions and pursued her Masters Degree in Art.  After a catastrophic collapse in 2004, she moved to Connecticut to Ridgefield Crossings, a managed care facility, and later to Laurel Ridge, a nursing home, where she quietly spent her final days near her son.

An avid artist, she did hundreds  of abstract drawings and paintings in her later years and shows of her work are planned for late 2012 and early 2013 in New York and Connecticut.

Her death is preceded by her brothers, Carmello of El Paso, Texas and Charles of Baltimore, Maryland, as well as her sister Catherine of Sebastapol California. She is survived by her son Charles Dorris and his wife Margery Schiffman of South Salem, New York, her son Gene Dorris and wife Chrysan of Shanghai, China, three grandsons, William, John and Isaac Dorris, and two great grandsons, Augustus and Porter Dorris.

A memorial service for Mrs. Dorris is planned for Noon on October 6th, 2012 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in DuQuoin, Illinois.