Aspen, CO Colorado
Dorismarie Welcher, Queen of the Hudson, has departed this “pretty planet” that she so loved; the Queen passed away peacefully and surrounded by friends on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008, after a short stay at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City. Her parting words were “Thank you.” She had celebrated her 81st birthday in September.
Though she had chosen to spend her halcyon days in her “blessed aerie” overlooking the Hudson River in New York City, Dorismarie had been a lively and beloved resident of Aspen in the 1970s and into the ’80s. She returned regularly to visit her many friends and to take in the beauty and energy of the Rockies, especially that of Mt. Sopris, her favorite mountain.
Born in Youngstown, Ohio, on Sept. 11, 1927, (she would kindly remind friends, “I was here first!”) to Jesse Simmons Welcher and Robert Welcher. Ms. Welcher was raised by her grandparents, Rachael and Samuel Welcher, for whom she held the greatest fondness. She often spoke of the powerful influence her grandmother had on her and fully embraced the spirituality of unity that she shared.
She attended Hayes Junior High and Rayen High School in Youngstown and later moved to Marion, Ala., where she graduated from Lincoln High School. One of her classmates at Lincoln was Coretta Scott, who later married the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ms. Welcher and Mrs. King remained close and corresponded until Mrs. King’s death in 2006.
Ms. Welcher followed her sister, Emily Welcher, to New York City in 1948, where she quickly became part of an exciting and vibrant New York jazz scene. It was there that she met many of the great jazz legends, several of whom remained her lifelong friends. She loved to cook and many of the musicians would stop by her home after their gigs for some chili from the big pot simmering on her stove.
As her vocation, Ms. Welcher became a house parent at an Adult Residence House in Brooklyn. She later worked as a counselor at Callagy Hall, a school for troubled teenage girls. In 1968, Ms. Welcher broke her back in an on-job accident and later retired on disability.
In 1971, Ms. Welcher moved to California. During her brief stay there, she was told that skiing would be good therapy to strengthen her back and so she decided to move to Aspen. It was in Aspen that she flourished, friend to all, driving her brown Mercedes named “Old Dude” about town, adorned with its “ZG 17” license plates.
Good friend and Aspen local James “JP” Perry recalls, “Dorismarie also knew how to embrace life. In her late 40s and early 50s, she took up skiing and tennis. She worked at Bonnie’s restaurant for a couple of seasons, making strudel and her famous Cowboy Cookies. She would always gaze at Sopris and tell whoever was listening what a beautiful mountain it was. Dorismarie would always tell her skiing buddies to please ski Pussyfoot to Blondie’s ski run on Ajax for her.
By 1981, Ms. Welcher was in a “New York state of mind” and so she loaded up her 1960 Chevy pick-up truck and returned to New York, where she settled in Manhattan.
Noted for her many visitors, fine meals, sublime jazz music playing 24/7, and the salon atmosphere she created in her home overlooking her magnificent River, she became “Queen of the Hudson.” She thrived in her community, attending the Unity Center of New York City, traveling often, enjoying sports, and celebrating life with food, laughter and love.
Her favorite things included the color green, Norell perfume, Wednesdays, the Dallas Cowboys and the Boston Celtics, tennis, skiing, music, flowers, television, reading and “Grant” $50 bills. Her life was highlighted by many vibrant moments: her birthday parties; a jazz cruise with friends on Her Majesty’s ship, the QE2; her sojourns to the annual Yale-Harvard football game (she rooted for Yale) with her “surrogate son” Michael J. Beiser of New York; and a trip to the Cote D’Azur, where one night in Monte Carlo, she won big in roulette, busting the bank with back-to-back bets on 17 black (her magic number).
Ms. Welcher believed passionately in the “power of the written word” and was a prolific correspondent who composed her signature, handwritten letters daily and religiously wrote entries in her journal every morning. She inspired many to put pen to paper and express themselves by writing: her “roadbuddy” and friend Margie B.
Lapanja, former Aspen resident and “Bonnie’s” original baker wrote “Goddess in the Kitchen: Romancing the Stove,” a cookbook illuminated with Ms. Welcher’s many stories and recipes (including the Cowboy Cookies and chili), and dedicated it to her.
Last fall, the Queen of the Hudson was fêted at her 80th birthday bash at the Hotel Jerome, hosted by Jonathan Lewis of Aspen. It was truly a quintessential event for all who attended.
She is survived by her mother, her son, Paul Terrence Chambers III; her granddaughter, Shameeka Lewis; her grandson, “Mr. P.C.” Paul Chambers IV; and devoted relatives and friends, including Sandy Jordan, Gloria Ware, Mary Halsey, the wide jazz community, Peter Johnson, John Dufficy, Charlotte Fox, William Hackett “Hutch” Hutchinson and countless, beloved others.
Celebrations of her life ” a jazz cruise around Manhattan and a memorial hike up Sopris ” are being planned for 2009. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium (CBJC), celebrating their 10th year of presenting the month-long CBJC Jazz Festival: http://www.cbjcjazz.org or call (718) 773-2252.
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