Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In Memoriam: Dorrie Fretwell, former University First Lady

In Memoriam: Dorrie Fretwell
Former UNC Charlotte First Lady

The following obituary was published Jan. 1, 2012 in The Charlotte Observer. The UNC Charlotte community extends its condolences to the Fretwell family.

Dorrie Shearer Fretwell

Dorrie S. Fretwell, of The Stewart Center, The Cypress, Charlotte, born January 2, 1927 to Alice Hassinger and Frederic Shearer, passed away peacefully on December 30, 2011.

Raised in Evanston, Illinois, Dorrie completed her B. Mus. and M. Mus. in music at Drake University in Iowa. At Drake she taught voice and piano and was president of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. Following voice study at the American School of Music in Fontainebleau, France, Dorrie began her career as a professional soprano, performing as a soloist with choral societies, musical clubs and in opera productions on stage and television.

In 1951, she married E.K. Fretwell, Jr., with whom she recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. She and E.K. raised their four children in New York City, Albany, Chappaqua, and Buffalo, NY during her husband's career as a leader in higher education. In each locale Dorrie was an active volunteer and served as an officer on numerous civic and professional boards including the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Society, The Community Music School (Buffalo), and the Girl Scouts of America. While in New York City, as President of the Columbia University Dames, she hosted Eleanor Roosevelt's visit to that university's campus. The couple moved to Charlotte in 1979 when E.K. became the Chancellor of UNC Charlotte.

Dorrie continued her civic activities in Charlotte with the Symphony, the Opera and The Literacy Council. During her husband's presidency at Buffalo State College, chancellorship at UNCC, and interim presidencies at The University of Massachusetts system and The University of North Florida, Dorrie was widely known for her trademark gracious hospitality and modesty as the First Lady. In 1985, Dorrie was among the first graduates of UNC Charlotte's MA in Psychology and shortly thereafter began her career as a practicing psychologist and published a number of articles related to depression and headache management. Dorrie received special recognition during the dedication of a new building being named in honor of E.K.'s service at UNC Charlotte when she learned, in a surprise announcement, that her name would also be included in the building's official name. After her retirement, Dorrie remained active with Charlotte's Myers Park Presbyterian Church, including singing with the church choir, and was a regular attendee at the Charlotte Symphony and Opera.

She and E.K. traveled extensively, including visits to universities in China, Australia, England, Brazil, Italy, and Germany. She was an avid reader and crossword devotee, and enjoyed her seven grandchildren. She is predeceased by her sister, Margie Parcell, and is survived by her loving family: her husband, E.K. Fretwell Jr.; four children, Barbara Fretwell, MD (Peter Cooke, MD), Peggy Cross (John), Jim Fretwell, and Katie Fretwell (Bob Saul); seven grandchildren; and her brother, Gary Shearer (Jane).

Dorrie's family would like publicly to extend its gratitude to the staff at The Stewart Center of The Cypress and the Hospice and Palliative Care Charlotte Region for their support and care, particularly during Dorrie's last months.

A celebration of life service is scheduled for Saturday, January 7, at 11 a.m. at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, Charlotte. The family will receive friends at a reception at the Clubhouse of The Cypress of Charlotte, 3442 Cypress Club Drive, Charlotte on Friday, January 6, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and then again following the service on Saturday at the church. An interment committal will be held privately. In lieu of flowers, donations in Dorrie's memory may be sent to The Dorrie Fretwell Professional Development Fund (a scholarship for Ph.D candidates in health/psychology), c/o UNC Charlotte Foundation, Office of University Development, 9201 University City Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28223-0001 or to The Charlotte Symphony at www.charlottesymphony.org.

Arrangements are in the care of T. H. Robertson Funeral Service Lic.; friends are welcome to share condolences online at www.throbertson.com.

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