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Dolly instantly became a part of the Elwick family when she arrived from St. Vincent.

A day after celebrating their 75th anniversary with hundreds of relatives, friends and fellow-parishioners at the Vinton Presbyterian Church, Keith and Janet Elwick gathered in their kitchen with about 15 family members.

As they always do, they held hands as Keith prayed. He thanked God for life and love, memories, laughter family and friends.

Among that group gathered in the Elwick kitchen on Monday was the last of the children who joined Keith and Janet’s family –Dolly Davy.

Dolly, a native of the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent, joined the Elwick family around 1968.

Keith had gone to St. Vincent to deliver a tractor to a plantation he and other Vinton businessmen, including Karl Fischer and D.C. Taylor, had owned at the time. And yes, buying a farm in near the Equator is just one of the unique things Keith has done in his 95 years of inventing things and running farm-based businesses.

Dolly had been working in an office where Keith had gone to make arrangements with customs officials to deliver that tractor on the small island of Bequia (where natives refer to St. Vincent as "the mainland"). Keith was immediately impressed with Dolly’s personality and her excellent English. So when he learned she was interested in coming to the U.S.to find better job opportunities, he offered her a place in his home – and his family.

Lots of young people there wanted to come to America. But Keith was so impressed with Dolly’s sincerity and intelligence that he offered her that unique opportunity.

When Dolly came to Vinton, there were no organizations or government agencies involved, says Keith; just two families agreeing to help a young woman find a better life.

That kind of thing was nothing new to the Elwick family -- which now includes 10 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren (and one more on the way). A few years before Dolly came, the family hosted Tony, a foreign exchange student from Costa Rica. Tony continues to keep in touch with the Elwicks, and has visited Vinton at times.

Dolly, however, was unfamiliar with that kind of hospitality before she came to Iowa, and was surprised at how hospitably she was welcomed.

“They let me live in their house, with them, and not in a garage or other place,” she recalls.

And the Elwicks recall the light and laughter that Dolly brought to their home.

“Her voice is still the same,” said Kathy Elwick Blank, who spent a year with Dolly, at home and at Washington High School. The two instantly formed a sisterly bond.

Dolly had learned how to type on a manual typewriter before coming to Iowa. In Vinton, she learned how to use an electric typewriter at Washington High School. She also worked at the State Bank and answered the phones at Hawk-Bilt.

In Iowa, Dolly experienced many things that were new to her. She saw snow. She skated on the ice – and discovered how cold winter can be. She learned the delights of finding mushrooms while hiking near Guttenberg.

After a year, she left Vinton for the big city – New York City. She had a brother there who offered to help her find work.

Keith recalled the day Dolly left for New York City.

“There was lots of crying,” he said, “followed by some talking and loud laughter.. then more sobbing.”

She and her husband Cecil, who is also a St. Vincent native, got married, then moved to the Washington, D.C., area because it was smaller than NYC. Dolly worked in a variety of offices, retiring from the University of Maryland. Cecil was a writer for ABC news, working with many of the best-known news anchors. He said a highlight of his career was covering the 9/11 story, working long days that week to re-write news stories as additional information about that event became available. But his most clear memory of that day is going into DC while most of the people were fleeing the area, with faces full of terror and tears.

“They asked why I was going into the city while they were fleeing,” he recalled.

Dolly is a grandma now; her daughter majored in Dance (and at her mother's insistence, minored in Business) and now is operating a dance studio.

Dolly and Cecil returned to Vinton to help Keith and Janet celebrate their 75th anniversary. Dolly had also been part of their Golden Anniversary 25 years ago.

On Monday, they gathered around the Elwick table with some of the Elwick siblings, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, eating cake and sandwiches left over from the big event a day earlier. They recalled the good times they had shared in Vinton, and shared stories about the two very different places.

Dolly discussed things like tri-tri, a small fish that is considered a delicacy in St. Vincent– but only when it is correctly cleaned and cooked.

Later this week, Dolly and Cecil will leave for Florida, where they moved last year after retiring. You can bet that there will be more laughter and tears when that happens.

But yes, the families are already discussing plans for another reunion soon.



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Comments (1)

What a great article concerning family that we so love! Thank you!
By: Nancy And Dennis Lausar on January 22nd 7:56pm

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