For thousands of St. Thomas students over her 16 years as a Dining Services employee, Dorothy “Dottie” Piper was the smiling face, the hug, the kind word that came along with getting their ID swiped to get into the Café and The View. Nearly two years after she retired from St. Thomas, the beloved former employee died on Wednesday at 94 years old.
Mass of Christian Burial will take place Tuesday, May 10, at 10 a.m. at Church of St. Mark, Dayton and Howell St., St. Paul. Visitation is on Monday, May 9, from 5-7 p.m. at Holcomb-Henry-Boom-Purcell Funeral Home, 536 N. Snelling Ave., St. Paul, and an hour prior to the funeral at the church. Read her obituary online.
“Dottie was one of a kind,” said Todd Empanger, Director of Dining Services. “She was a kind person and had a heart of gold.”
In a college environment where so much is changing for students, Piper was a constant in many of their lives as she worked the door over both breakfast and lunch. Piper had a knack for making friends and lasting connections in the brief exchanges she had with hundreds of diners each day, becoming for many a favorite part of their experience on campus.
“Dee’s just the best thing about UST; that’s just how it is. I hated having to get up early, but it was always nice to see her in the mornings when I went for breakfast,” said then-senior Ricky Konerza in a 2011 Facebook contest that saw Piper recognized as students’ unofficial “Favorite Thing About St. Thomas.”
It’s a title few who knew her and saw her impact would refute, and – thanks to her prominent position out front of the Café in the Murray-Herrick Center and later at The View in the Anderson Student Center – so many did know her. Piper described in a 2007 feature in The Aquin that she took the position as a way to stay busy after her husband, Harry, passed away in 1993.
“I just like the people I’m around, I enjoy the students. I just love what I’m doing,” Piper said.
As the outpouring of support and bittersweet farewells leading up to her retirement in May 2014 showed, the feelings of the campus community were mutual.
“She would always tell me how much she loved me, greeted me with a smile and would stop me for conversations all the time,” Carly Ann Evancevich said in a Facebook post recognizing Piper’s retirement. “I’m going to miss her so much.”
“Dottie made my life!” Tarkor Zehn added.
Originally from Iowa, Piper moved to St. Paul in 1947 and lived in the same home until her passing. Piper has two sons: her first, Ron, passed away as a member of the armed services; Piper is survived by her second son, Jim, and daughter-in-law, Dee Dee, as well as three grandchildren (Julie, James Paul and Matthew) and five great-grandchildren.
Many Tommies have shared their Dottie memories on the St. Thomas Facebook page. See their comments below.