Dorothy Winder Okie Beach

Dorothy Winder Okie Beach

CORNWALL — Dorothy Winder Okie Beach, born in 1927, died peacefully on Jan. 26, 2024, after a week-long hospital stay that was rich with family, phone calls, laughter, tears and song. She managed to live all of her 96 years at home surrounded by the music, flowers, dogs and birds that nourished her soul.

Born in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, Dorothy was the cherished later third child (and a girl at that, with two older brothers) to her parents, William R. and Charlotte (Laird) Okie. She described a vibrant early life with relatives flowing easily in and out of her country homes, the second of which was inspired by ‘Uncle Brog’, whose ‘Okie Influence’ informed not only architecture at the time, but also the renovation of her own Irvington home; its wide floorboards and hand-beaded trim were a daily reminder of where she came from and what she loved.

Dorothy attended Baldwin School, Mt. Holyoke (Class of 1950) and American University, ultimately working as an inner-city librarian, but all the while studying as a pianist in what she had learned on the fly while accompanying her big brothers and their college friends in song when they made their brief, thrilling appearances at home.

At 21, Dorothy married Brewster Yale Beach, Episcopal priest and later a Jungian analyst. They moved from Youngstown, Ohio, to Basking Ridge, New Jersey, before settling in Wilmington, Delaware with their three children. For several years, she served on the Board of Directors of the Episcopal Seminary of the Caribbean in Puerto Rico. A family cottage in West Cornwall, part of the “Yelping Hill” community, drew them northward in the summer.

Divorced in her 40s, Dorothy forged a new home and a new life for herself in Hastings-on-Hudson and then Irvington, New York, becoming the long-time organist and choir director at Tarrytown’s Christ Church. She ran Dial-A-Writer for many years, a writers’ referral service that had her striding across Times Square to the 19th floor of ‘1501’. Matching writers to those with stories to tell was also a wonderful match for this curious and attentive listener who loved hearing the intimate and often strange tales from her callers (one of whom, famously, was Oprah Winfrey!)

In what was a major accomplishment, she earned a place at Manhattan School of Music in their master’s program in piano accompanying. Playing for top-notch musicians, she featured many of them in the acclaimed Music for a Sunday Afternoon series which she founded in 1974.

Dorothy possessed a deep contentment in connection, keeping close tabs on her many friends and her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews with frequent phone calls, loving notes and whimsical birthday poems. She delighted simply in being alive, whether she was making music or playing cards, tending roses in her Irvington garden or surrounded by nature at Yelping Hill, lingering over breakfast while admiring the songbirds on the outside feeder or walking in the woods with a big stick and her ‘current’ beloved dog. When she was no longer able to garden, a kind landscaper entered her life, planting flowers around her yard that were an endless source of pleasure.

Imbued with a strong sense of home and family, Dorothy joyfully made the world her home and transformed every stranger she met into part of her family.

She is survived by her three children, Nancy Beach, Robert Beach (Dongxian Yue) and Louise Beach (Brian Skarstad), her four grandchildren, Will, Sam, Anna and Maya, and her two great-grandchildren, Vigo and Miles.

A private memorial service will be held for Dorothy in the spring at the church she grew to love, St. Barnabas, Irvington.

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