Dorothy Geneva Simmons Skelton (1914-1999)
Artist and educator, Dorothy Geneva Simmons was born in Woodland, California on July 19, 1914. She attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she completed a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in fine arts in 1940 and 1943, respectively. While she was completing her studies, she met John William Skelton, an officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps. The two were married in July 1941.
In 1944 Skelton became a senior research analyst for the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. In 1947 she volunteered for service with the MFAA Restitution Branch of the Office of Military Government, U.S. Zone (OMGUS) for Hesse in Wiesbaden, Germany. In addition to her duties, she volunteered to teach art to German students in the town of Bad Nauheim, Germany. She also helped prepare an extensive catalogue for an exhibition of drawings and paintings by Rembrandt held at the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point in May 1948.
Upon her return to the United States in late 1948, Skelton began a long and rewarding career as an art educator. She influenced the lives of hundreds of students at the Dayton Art Institute and Lincoln Elementary School, both in Dayton, Ohio, and the University of Virginia School of Continuing Education in Charlottesville. She also continued to produce her own works of art, which were included in group shows in California, Colorado, Ohio, Washington, and Virginia. An active member of her community, she was a black belt in karate, a maker of handmade hats, a volunteer art consultant, and an independent genealogical researcher. Her book, The Squire Simmons Family, 1746-1986, an in-depth chronology of her own ancestors, was published in 1986. She was a member of the National Association of Pen Women, the American Association of University Women, the American Association of Museums, the College Art Association of America, and a life member of the National Society of Arts and Letters.
Dorothy Skelton died in Culpeper, Virginia on November 7, 1999. Her extraordinary legacy of providing art education to the next generation lives on in the form of the Dorothy Skelton Art Scholarship. Established in 2002 by The Windmore Foundation for the Arts, the annual scholarship is awarded to a graduating high school senior interested in pursuing a higher education in the visual or performing arts.
Photo courtesy of the Windmore Foundation for the Arts.