Merriam Webster logs an “official” dictionary spelling of “family.” But those who know Dolores Epley are convinced that “family” is spelled Dolores. Whether immediate through genes or extended through chosen ties, for Dolores, the value of her family stands above all else.
So it was, on April 4, 2021, Easter Day, this loving wife, mom, grandma (“Mia”), great-grandma (“Big Mia”), aunt, sister, devoted friend, small business owner, and faithful Duck took final stock of her growing brood. With peaceful satisfaction, she recognized it was ok to move on, and joined her beloved Malc in eternal rest. She was 91 years old.
Dolores Helen Steele was born March 31, 1930 in Oakland, California to Mildred and Joseph R. Steele. Raised in Merrill, Oregon where her folks farmed potatoes, Dolores graduated from Merrill High School in a graduating class of 12. (Those classmates remained life-long friends, holding regular get-togethers up through recent years. Eleanor and George Price recall 85 years of memories with Dolores, all starting in Merrill.) Dolores enrolled at the University of Oregon where she joined Alpha Phi sorority. She met Malcolm Epley, Jr. on a blind date.
Dolores and Malc were married in 1950 and settled in Klamath Falls before moving to Portland in 1953. By 1960, the Epley family had grown to include 3 kids. During the mid-60s, Dolores and her neighbor and good friend Ann Rowell launched a successful furniture refinishing business, Tabor ‘Tiques, turning their artistic talents into a winning enterprise.
In 1970, Dolores bought a Baskin Robbins ice cream store in Portland’s Hollywood district, operating it for 18 years. A glass ceiling breaker in her own right, she was the only woman B & R franchise owner in the area at a time when there weren’t many women-owned businesses at all. She employed her mother as bookkeeper; hired her two good friends, Sally Underhill and Barb Tarr, to help with management duties. As well as giving her own kids jobs to help pay college costs, Dolores hired dozens of young teens, often to their first jobs. Providing them with valuable job experience, she took great pride in watching them grow into confident and capable young adults. With a reputation for first-rate party goods in addition to a well-run store, Dolores was highly respected as a B & R franchise owner and businesswoman.
After retiring, Dolores took up golf and diligently worked on her game, regularly playing rounds with Malc, friends, grandkids and in a weekly ladies 9-hole group. Cheering on grandkids’ activities including high school and college sports, music and dance performances, school accomplishments and professional pursuits were some of her greatest delights. She treasured time spent with her great-grandkids, hanging on every word they spoke and movement they made.
During their 69 years of marriage, Dolores and Malc may have raised 3 kids but they grew the Epley family beyond bloodlines to become an extensive, extended family. Their Mt. Tabor home was a gathering place for many who loved each other’s company. All because Dolores & Malc set the tone for a welcoming place full of love where the door was always open. The hospitality was genuine. The fellowship was warm. And the food was delicious. The same generosity was extended at the cherished family place in Ft. Bidwell, in NE California’s beautiful Surprise Valley.
Dolores was preceded in death by husband Malc in 2019. She is survived by daughter, Janet (Dave) Gonrowski; son, Mark (Jan); son, Jon (Kelly); six grandchildren, Ty (Jenny), Drew (Mike), Brian (Kate), MacIan, Brendan, and Garren; four great-grandchildren, James Malcolm, Parker, Mia Jane, and Steele; sister, Alix (Rick) Traver. And countless friends. We miss you, Mia.
Private burial was at Willamette National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to your favorite charity or to Lost River High School (formerly Merrill High School) by contacting 541-798-5666 to request a donation form.
Arrangements by Holman’s Funeral & Cremation Services.
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