Dorothy Elaine Powell’s contributions to the state will impact the lives of Arizona’s older generations for years to come. Dorothy was a community and social activist as well as a tireless advocate for the elderly on issues including health, education and age discrimination. She was dedicated to the proposition that all residents of rural Arizona should have the same access to quality of life as any other resident of the state. In trying to get Arizonans to understand that aging was something that would happen to all of us and that the elderly had real concerns, she often said, “If you don’t think aging is an issue, just wait.”
Dorothy was born in Alice, Texas on June 14, 1921. Dorothy received honors in high school and secured a prestigious scholarship from P.E.O., an organization that promoted educational opportunities for women. She started college in 1938 at New Mexico State University where she met her husband, Dewey. She moved to Arizona in the mid-1940s with her husband and in 1951 they opened Powell’s Feed and Supply in Casa Grande. She finished her degree in Home Economics in 1975 from Arizona State University, and became the secretary to the Vice President of Central Arizona College after many years of teaching.
Eventually, Dorothy became the Coordinator of Senior Adult Programs in 1972 at Central Arizona College. This appointment opened the door to many opportunities for her and she quickly became one of Arizona’s leading advocates for the elderly. In 1985, Governor Bruce Babbit appointed her a member and then chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging. Governors Mofford, Symington and Hull reappointed her. She served on the Council for more than three decades. She also served on the committee that wrote the Older American Act for Arizona which created grant opportunities to states to offer different programs for the elderly and training for personnel. The Dorothy Powell Senior Adult Center in Casa Grande was named after this hardworking, dedicated Arizonan. She was a member of many boards, commissions and councils, some of which included: the Area Agency for Aging, Region V; the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens; the Arizona Alzheimer Committee; the RTA Hospital Foundation Board; the Central Arizona College Foundation; and the Pinal County Housing Authority.
She was named Arizona’s Outstanding Senior Citizen in 1986 and was inducted into the Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce’s Hall of Fame in 1990. Dorothy received a 12 Who Care Hon Kachina Award in 1995. She was regarded by many as the First Lady of Casa Grande.
During the last twenty years of her life, she dedicated countless hours visiting the elderly and fighting on their behalf. She embodied one of her favorite statements, “the three stages of life are learning, earning and returning.”