Dorothy Fenner

Obituary of Dorothy Harstad Fenner

Dorothy Harstad Fenner died on September 13, 2020 in Saratoga, California, surrounded by family.  She was 103.

She was born on September 9, 1917, in Tacoma, Washington to Josephine Pyfer Harstad and Oscar Theander Harstad.  Oscar was the son of Bjug Harstad, founder and first president of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.  He was a dentist and sportsman (he pitched one season for the Cleveland Indians!).  The Harstad family lived in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, and Josephine was a home-maker and community volunteer.  Dorothy grew up as the oldest of three children, with brother Bill and sister Helen.  

Dorothy graduated from Oregon State College in Home Economics in 1939 and was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.  She married John Fenner on October 12, 1940, and in 1941 finished a graduate fellowship while John was on duty at Fort Lewis.  

During the Second World War, while John was in the 3rd Army Division in North Africa and Europe, Dorothy served in the Women’s Army Corps in signal security on the West Coast of the U.S.  She was discharged on their fifth wedding anniversary.

In 1948, while John was at Stanford Law School, the couple built a house in Menlo Park.  Daughter Barbara and son Tom were born at Stanford Hospital during these years.  John and Dorothy returned to Oregon in 1951, where their third child, David, was born in Portland.

In 1955, the couple returned to Corvallis.  Through the years, Dorothy taught Foods and Nutrition at Oregon State and John practiced law.  They built a home in Corvallis in 1956, where they lived for the next 55 years.

Dorothy was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church of Corvallis, and for decades was a frequent piano accompanist for school and community groups, Oregon State University alumni events, the Rotary Club, and several civic performances.  She was also a member of PEO and the Assistance League of Corvallis.

In 2011, Dorothy and John moved to Saratoga Retirement Community in Saratoga, California.  She continued to share her remarkable musical gifts with her neighbors and the staff in frequent sing-alongs and piano bars, and in this, she took great pleasure.

Dorothy was preceded in death by her parents, husband John, brother Bill Harstad, sister Helen Strickler, and by her daughter, Barbara Fenner Sjostrom. 

She is survived by her sons Tom (Randee) and David (Elisabeth), grandchildren Emily (Mark), Nathan, Sofie (Mohamed) and Alex (Therin), and four great grandchildren Josephine, William, Wesley and Sidney.

Arrangements are being made by Spangler Mortuaries in Los Altos, California.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Dorothy’s name to the OSU Foundation to benefit the Music Department.  (OSU Foundation, 4238 SW Research Way, Corvallis, OR, 97333 or www.osufoundation.org )

A family celebration of Dorothy’s life will be held in the coming months at the Oregon Coast.  

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