WINDSOR – The collective of Windsor is mourning the loss of one of her most beloved citizens.
Dotsie Leary Dunlow, better known throughout Windsor and Bertie County as “Mrs. Dotsie,” succumbed to a brief illness on Wednesday, Jan. 13.
“She was an iconic figure here,” Windsor Mayor Jim Hoggard said. “Everyone knew her. Everyone liked her. She’s really going to be missed. I’m very saddened, and so is our community.”
Mrs. Dotsie was manager of the Little Mint and later, the Little Golden Skillet, in Windsor for nearly 50 years. It was there her smile and determination to take care of customers and staff made her a beloved figure.
David Shields, who owns the Little Golden Skillet, said he bought the business more than a dozen years ago with one caveat – Mrs. Dotsie had to remain.
“When Little Mint decided not to renew its contract, I had the opportunity to buy the business,” Shields said. “I told the Salebee family, who owned the building, I’ll buy the business if Dotsie stays.”
Shields said he knew Mrs. Dotsie from calling on her when he was a food salesman, and he knew how she ran the store.
“She was such an intricate part of downtown Windsor,” he said. “That store has been there for 50 years and she was such a large part of that.”
Shields said he owned the building, but he never doubted who was in charge.
“The thing about Dotsie is she was straightforward with the young people who worked there, and she was straightforward with me,” he said. “I may have owned the building, but I was a long way from being the boss. There was no doubt in my mind who the boss of the Little Golden Skillet was.”
Shields said over the course of 50 years there were more than 1,000 young people who got their start because of Mrs. Dotsie and learned what it was to have a job.
“The amount of people she helped by giving them a job is mind-boggling,” he said.
The young women got more than a job – they got a mentor.
“What a lot of people didn’t know was the way she mentored the young women who worked there,” Shields said. “She would tell them they could be anything they wanted, just as she had.”
He said less than a month ago he walked into Little Golden Skillet and found Mrs. Dotsie in a chair trying to reach something on a top shelf. He said it was typical of her savvy nature and determination to do whatever was needed to keep Little Golden Skillet running smoothly.
Shields said he would do his best to continue to operate the business the way she would have wanted, but knows it will be difficult.
“We’re going to do the right things and keep things going,” he said. “I know for a fact if I make a mistake, she’ll let me know it. She may not be here physically, but her presence will be in that store forever.”
Shields thanked Mrs. Dotsie’s family for sharing her with the community over the years.
She is survived by her husband, Donnie Dunlow Sr., as well as daughters, Sandra Hardison and Lori Merritt, as well as stepsons, Donnie Dunlow Jr. and Kevin Dunlow.
She was laid to rest Sunday, Jan. 17 in Edgewood Cemetery with military honors because of her service in the U.S. Air Force.
Mrs. Dotsie was awarded a key to the city by the late Windsor Mayor Bob Spivey for her service to the community.
“I can’t tell you how hard it’s going to be,” Shields said of carrying on without Mrs. Dotsie. “Hopefully things will be better with COVID-19 this summer and we’ll celebrate 50 years of the store in Windsor. We’re going to make it a huge celebration because that’s what she told me we had to do. We’re also going to do it to honor her.”
Windsor/Bertie Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lewis Hoggard said he would miss Mrs. Dotsie and her work with the Chamber.
“Mrs. Dotsie loved working with the Chamber and was a loyal supporter,” Hoggard said. “If I had forgotten to preorder little ham biscuits or chicken wings from Little Golden Skillet for a Chamber event, she would save the day by making sure we got them anyway.
“Her history at the restaurant goes back as many years as I can remember,” he added. “Mrs. Dotsie always had a smile. She was a treasure in this community and will be missed, but certainly not forgotten.”