From a very early age, Dorothy Brenner Appel knew she wanted to be an artist. To that end, she succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.
Dorothy, now age 97 and a resident of German Centre for Extended Care in West Roxbury, has amassed an impressive assortment of artwork over the years. Specializing in watercolors, oils, wood cuts, pen-and-ink studies, and pastels, Dorothy’s works grace the walls of collectors, museums, and galleries.
Born in Boston on Dec. 22, 1922, Dorothy grew up in Somerville. As the fifth of 11 siblings – three girls and eight boys – Dorothy was always surrounded by family and friends. It was a busy household indeed. Dorothy met her husband, Bill, on a blind date, which turned out to be quite fortuitous: they were married for 66 happy years. Dorothy and Bill raised three children in Sharon: son Neal and daughters Diane and Karen.
Today, Dorothy is the proud grandmother to Melissa and Julia, and doting great-grandmother to twins Rose and May, and Briyah, Lily, and Elijah.
Growing up, Neal remembers Dorothy and Bill being very involved with the local Sharon community. They both were active members of the Sharon Creative Arts Association; Dorothy created and taught art; Bill was immersed in the theater. More recently, Dorothy and Bill would hire themselves out as Mr. and Mrs. Claus for Christmas holiday celebrations.
“My mom and dad dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus every Christmas for 20 years,” said Neal Appel. “Being Jewish, they didn’t have any commitments over Christmas, and wanted to spread the joy of the holiday season to others.”
Although Dorothy created in her studio, her art could be found everywhere in the house. “I don’t remember a time when there wasn’t artwork hanging on every wall,” said Neal. “Even the garage was put to good use. There was never an actual car parked in our garage. Instead, every available space in the garage was used for mom’s works-in-progress and art supplies.”
Up until a few years ago, Dorothy taught art to private students almost every day in Brookline and Sharon. She was a popular teacher, connecting with students of all ages. Her advice to aspiring artists: “If you’re not satisfied with a painting, look at it with fresh eyes until you can see it from a different perspective. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the focal point can shift.”
Given that Dorothy is a beloved artist who has sold hundreds of paintings, this seems like an excellent suggestion. Her main objective has always been to create art that makes people happy. “I want my clients to fall in love with my paintings,” she said. “To me, that’s the true measure of success.”
Marilyn Kahn, age 92 and a renowned artist in her own right, has been best friends with Dorothy for almost 50 years. They met in Sharon when their children were small, bonding over motherhood, family, and a passion for art. Clearly, they have a rare friendship that has endured the test of time. As Marilyn explained, “Dorothy is warm, personable and hugely talented. We have an extremely close relationship. What more can I say? I love her.”
Dorothy moved to German Centre in West Roxbury a year ago. “Dorothy is full of life, always smiling and socializing with the other residents,” said Michael Lincoln, executive director of the retirement community. For her part, Dorothy is happy to be living at the German Centre. “The staff is always so welcoming and accommodating,” she said. “It’s really the people who make this place so extra special.”
When asked the secret to her longevity – Dorothy will turn 98 in December – she was quick to respond: “Truthfully, I think it’s a mix of luck and heredity. Fortunately I am blessed with good genes!”