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Part Eight Retirement and Community Activism

After her retirement, Dorothy continued to help on campus with tasks like student registration. The University wouldn’t allow the work to be done completely voluntarily, so Dorothy happily worked for $1 an hour though she remembers it could be quite awful in the summer: “We were out there in the Field House with the flies…It was terrible! But you know, it was fun!”

Even with volunteering at UNO and UNMC, Dorothy wanted to do more. She lived in South Omaha at the time, and there were environmental problems. When she was younger, her father worked for the County Clerk’s Office, so he helped make sure these types of problems got solved when they needed to be. Dorothy picked up the importance of these issues along the way, and the Dorothy Patach Natural Environmental Area is a testament to her work. A company had been hired to make some repairs, and they were tossing chunks of rubble and debris in a nearby ravine. Dorothy called the city to complain and then went to a City Council meeting with some engineers. The city made the company move the rubble, but there was no money to fill in the ravine. Instead, the city used sand and dirt that was picked up during street sweeps in the Old Market and South Omaha to fill it in. The City decided to name the area after Dorothy in honor of her commitment to her community, though she tried to get them to name it Heritage Park. Now the area has fruit trees growing in it, and it is a part of several local community projects.

Dorothy has been and still is involved with a number of community organizations including the Spring Lake Neighborhood Association, the South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, and the South Omaha Environmental Taskforce. She helped develop the Greater Omaha Neighborhood Association and was asked to serve on the committee for planning and designing the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge. She still works with the South Omaha Police Precinct to keep up community policing and do a safety fair to teach people about what policemen do. She took part in establishing citywide cleanups, junk hauls, and got grants to plant trees and shrubs and build barbecue pits and picnic tables at several clubs and parks. She helped get a place for people to take used tires, which were previously dumped in ravines, and she was also on a taskforce that got stricter regulations enforced on a chemical company that had been transporting and storing dangerous chemicals hazardously.

Dorothy is known for giving herself to her community and others, and she has been deservedly recognized for it. Some of her awards include the Golden Key, the Nebraska Nursing Association’s Award for Achievement and Leadership in Nursing, and having awards and scholarships given out in her name through the UNO Women’s Club and the UNMC School of Nursing. One of her most treasured recognitions, though, was being awarded the honorary title of Nebraska Admiral, Nebraska’s highest honor, which her father had also received. These awards recognize Dorothy’s selfless service to others, her teaching, and her impact on the changing landscape of nursing education in Nebraska, but as she humbly puts it, “I did this stuff because we needed it!”