Helen Cruse Dohl, teacher and UMCOR advocate, is going strong at 100 years old.
By Michelle Scott Okabayashi*
July 26, 2012—Helen Cruse Dohl, who celebrated her 100th birthday this past April, began working with UMCOR in 1968 and never stopped. She and her husband, Paul Dohl, departed to Korea on behalf of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in 1968 for what they thought was a six-week assignment. Two and a half years later they returned to the United States to become lifelong spokespeople for the denomination’s relief agency.
After retiring from their work as educators, Mrs. Dohl, a high school foreign language teacher, and Mr. Dohl, a junior high school principal, took a leap of faith when Mr. Dohl applied for a position with UMCOR. When he was hired to complete the post-war relief work the organization had begun in South Korea, they expected to be there for six weeks. Mrs. Dohl recalled, “I just went along to type.”
She found herself doing much more than that. The Dohls spent the next two and a half years traveling Korea, helping people to learn new life skills and to recover their livelihoods. They also brought orphans to the United States, according to the Olean Times Herald in an April 13 article about Helen Dohl’s life. “We saw faith in action,” said Mrs. Dohl of her time in Korea.
Prior to their departure to Korea, the Dohls had never traveled internationally. “We looked forward to it,” said Mrs. Dohl when asked how she felt about the prospect of going to Korea.
When the Dohls returned from Korea in 1971, they continued with their travels, and they never stopped talking about the importance of UMCOR. “We publicized what UMCOR means as part of the church,” said Mrs. Dohl. She and her husband talked extensively about UMCOR’s work through their experiences not only in Korea, but also from their travels to Israel, Turkey, Mexico, and other places.
James Cruse, Mrs. Dohl’s son, said of his mother’s time in Korea “It turned her from a school teacher to a missionary.”
Mrs. Dohl is a member of Christ United Methodist Church in Olean, New York, and is active in the Butterflies circle for United Methodist Women.
*Michelle Scott Okabayashi is a writer and regular contributor to umcor.org.