Local legend dies at 103
BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
TUNKHANNOCK – A Wyoming County legend, Dorothy Graham Colbenson, died early Tuesday morning, Nov. 20, at Tunkhannock’s Methodist Manor. She was 103.
Born in 1909 on Foundry Street (later known as Maple Avenue) in a home in which she resided until 2006, Colbenson’s life spanned more than a century and well beyond the confines of the place that gave her shelter.
“Her legacy was in the simple life well lived,” Pastor Lori Robinson said at a memorial service at Harding-Litwin Funeral Home in Tunkhannock.
Great grandson David Puza, a pilot for United Airlines in Houston, Texas, called her “truly amazing.”
It was not so much the longevity, “but the way she lived her life,” Puza, 43, said. “She always felt loved unconditionally and was always content with her position in life. She always strove to live her life in a way that was a blessing to others.”
“And that she was,” Robinson said, talking of her being raised by grandparents after her own mother died from tuberculosis when Dorothy was six.
Although mostly a homebody, she felt touched by the outside world with the coming of radio in the 1920s.
And it was also mentioned she liked to drive, finally giving up her license at the ripe old age of 89.
Daughter Elsie said her mom was a very good driver, and although both of Elsie’s brothers liked to race cars locally, her mother found it stressful to think that they might get hurt.
Fortunately, they did not while driving.
Robinson noted that even though Colbenson had a penchant for learning everything she could about the town of her birth, she did manage to take vacations, visiting one son in Florida, and when Emilie Lunger was the county’s extension home economist between 1962 and 1990, traveling up and down the coast from Plymouth Rock to Williamsburg for chartered vacations.
Colbenson had a penchant for making things, all self taught or with the assistance of Lunger who exposed her to the finer points of tailoring, daughter Elsie said.
But another real passion for Dorothy was storytelling, going to lengths to research her native Tunkhannock (see separate story) and then enjoying the company of others to just sit down and chat about what was on her mind.
Mayor Norm Ball said he remembered moving back to Tunkhannock more than a decade after he graduated from high school and buying a home on Franklin Avenue.
He said that Colbenson gave him the lowdown on the previous owners of the home even down to who built it.
“She was something of an icon, or maybe legend is a better word,” Ball said, noting that people might come to him asking for some bits of local lore, and if he didn’t have an answer, he knew where to turn someone to.
He remembered on the occasion of her reaching the century milestone back in 2009 that both he and the county commissioners proclaimed Dorothy Colbenson Day.
“That’s how valuable she was,” Ball said.
David Puza said Monday night what really hit home with him the time he was home giving thanks for his great grandma during this past Thanksgiving week was his great gram’s mail carrier for probably at least 15 years, Lisa Heller.
She shared with him how many lives Dorothy had touched by the simple things she did.
“She was truly a gift,” he said.