The Randolph Society Foundation Board is pleased to announce that the Dorothy Rabe Ivanuck, a World War II veteran who devoted her life to waging a war on poverty in our local communities, will be inducted into the 2019 class of honorees.
Dorothy Ruth Rabe, born into a German-American family in Steeleville in 1923, was the daughter of Charles Henry Rabe and Emma Castens Rabe. With her elder brother, Charles, she spent her childhood attending Steeleville schools and worshiping at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. After graduating from Sparta High School in the early 1940s, she headed to St. Louis to attend business college. In the midst of World War II, she decided to abandon her studies in favor of serving her country, enlisting in the navy and becoming one of the country’s first female members of the Marine Corps.
During her time in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, Dorothy was one of the many women who took on professional jobs in the branch, working in various procurement centers and serving as a clerk for her commanding officer at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. By the end of the war, she had been promoted to the rank of corporal. At St. Mark’s in the autumn of 1950, she married a fellow military officer: Captain Marion A. Ivanuck, who was serving in the Army Dental Corps. After Marion finished his military service, the family settled down in Dorothy’s native Steeleville, where they raised two daughters, Suzanne and Leslie.
Along with his dental practice, Marion served as Steeleville’s mayor for more than a decade. Both he and Dorothy were dedicated to public service. When a new antipoverty agency, the Western Egyptian Economic Opportunity Council, was formed in the 1960s, Dorothy was appointed as its first executive director. She focused the skills she had honed in the Marine Corps on a new war, this time on poverty in Randolph, Monroe, and Perry counties. The new agency administered a variety of programs, including Head Start, Operation Mainstream, the Neighborhood Youth Corps, and the Senior Nutrition Sites, all designed to enhance the quality of life of local citizens. Dorothy worked for decades to secure a diverse portfolio of grants and funding sources for the organization, ensuring that, even if one source of funding dried up, the agency would be able to continue providing services to the people who needed them most.
During her tenure, Western Egyptian established numerous programs to improve the lives of the people of Randolph County, including weatherization programs, food pantries and emergency voucher programs, legal clinics energy bill relief assistance programs, home rehabilitation services, specialized volunteer tax training, scholarships for college students, and even collection drives to provide local children with toys for Christmas. In 1993, as one of the worst floods in history ravaged Randolph and Monroe counties, Western Egyptian secured grant money to meet both immediate, live-saving needs and long-term recovery requirements for those who had lost everything to the rising river. All told, Dorothy raised millions of dollars over her four decades with Western Egyptian, providing the people of our area with crucial opportunities to improve themselves and their communities.
Dorothy received numerous honors and accolades during her long working life, which ended shortly before she died in 2004 in Chester. Her greatest tribute, however, is surely the continued existence of the Western Egyptian Economic Opportunity Council itself, which is still working to benefit the people of our area more than 50 years after it was originally founded.