Dorothy Shemick
Dorothy Shemick
Dorothy Shemick
Dorothy Shemick
Dorothy Shemick

Memorial Service

2:00 pm
Saturday, June 8, 2024
Foxdale Village Auditorium
500 E. Marylyn Ave.
State College, Pennsylvania, United States

Obituary of Dorothy Ann Shemick

Dorothy Ann Dreher Shemick, of Foxdale Village, State College, died on Saturday, April 6, 2024, surrounded by family. She was 95 years old.

Known as Dot, she was the daughter of Maud Marks Dreher and Arthur Lincoln Dreher and was born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 6, 1928. Dot was preceded in death by her parents, by her husband, John M. Shemick, of Penn State's College of Education, and by her brother, Robert Arthur Dreher of Lancaster, Virginia.

Dot was an independent thinker. She was incensed by racism and prejudice and supported peace, equity and justice. She became a Unitarian Universalist as an adult. As a child in 1939, while attending grade school in Brooklyn, she received an early lesson in discrimination. Dot and another German-surnamed student were so mistreated by a British immigrant teacher that they tried to avoid school. The principal explained to Dot's mother that these children were victims of the teacher's anger toward Germany. Soon after, the teacher's harassment stopped.

Dot was a life-long learner. During her Fort Hamilton High School years, she learned photography techniques from her father and brother and became the school yearbook photographer. Dot was determined to attend college despite her father and grandfather's opposition. At Penn Hall Junior College, while waiting for a post-World War II opening at a four-year school, she honed her photographic skills. At Michigan State College, as the only woman in the school's Photography Club, she used her Speedgraphic camera to shoot sports photos for the college newspaper and yearbook. Dot received her Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics in 1950 and married John later that year.

In 1976 she received a master's equivalency degree and teaching certificate to become a high school teacher. Dot designed and taught a Human Services curriculum at the Centre County Vo-Tech School, and for twelve years inspired many students to pursue careers in childcare, elder care, and related fields. Some of Dot's students found positions at Foxdale Village, using what they learned to care for its residents and later, for her.

Dot was a fierce advocate for universal childcare and early childhood education. As an entrepreneur she founded and operated Children's World, a childcare center, in 1989. She conducted market research, investigated zoning ordinances, and arranged financing. The business was a continuation of her teaching career, as she mentored employees in early childhood education and promoted their professional development. Dot owned and operated the center for ten years, after which she retired to pursue photography, traveling and gardening.

Dot was a courageous and adventurous woman. She introduced herself to John Shemick in a drafting class at Michigan State by asking advice on how to draw the fixtures specific to a men's restroom. During a college summer vacation, she applied for and received her seaman's papers, and took charge of the food service on a Great Lakes cruise ship. While at first the crewmen hazed her because she was a "college girl," she became their hero when she reported to the ship's purser that they had been arrested after a brawl in a Canadian brothel where they had taken her as a prank. The purser bailed the crewmen out of jail and the ship was able to continue its voyage, without delay.

After marrying John in 1950, she moved with him to Illinois, Florida, upstate New York, and finally to State College in 1960. While raising a young family, she researched and created detailed itineraries for dozens of trips to national parks and historic sites in the United States and Canada, where the family would camp and learn.

Dot was fascinated with international travel and world cultures. In 1967, a two-year Penn State assignment took the family to Panama, the first of many global adventures. The family traveled extensively during that time touring numerous cultural sites in Central and South America. They returned to State College in 1969. In 1974, for John's sabbatical, she and daughter Laura voyaged on a tramp steamer to Japan on the way to Seoul, South Korea, to join him.

Dot and John later traveled to Europe to meet John's distant relatives in Scandinavia, and visited daughter Nancy in Chile, where she was a Peace Corps Volunteer. In 1985, while John was Visiting Professor at National Taiwan Normal University, Dot met with his former students, visited cultural and historic sites, and traveled around Taiwan and Southeast Asia with friends. After John's death, she made many far-flung trips with friends and daughters.

In 2006, daughter Nancy encouraged Dot to become her neighbor in Alameda, California. She made new friends, and was active volunteering in community activities. After eight years, Dot returned to State College to live in Foxdale Village to be with many long-time friends.

Over the years, she served in various volunteer positions, with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County, the YMCA, the League of Women Voters, and the American Association of University Women, among others. She was a long-time member of the Faculty Wives Club, and participated in Democratic Party electoral politics. She and John were co-presidents of the Parent-Teacher Association for Radio Park Elementary School while their daughters were pupils there.

Dot is survived by her daughters, Nancy Shemick (Tom Charron), of Alameda, California, and Laura Shemick (Rima Cameron), of Steelton, Pennsylvania, in addition to many nieces and nephews. Known for her sense of humor, Dot was loved by all whose lives she touched. A life well-lived.

After her husband's death, she established endowments in the College of Education at Penn State. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the John M. Shemick Scholarship fund (

A Celebration of Life will be held on June 8, 2024, at 2 pm in the Foxdale Village Auditorium.   The service will be livestreamed and for those wishing to view the service please click on the following link and use the Password:  foxdale15.

Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences and signing of the guest book may be entered at

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