Dorothy Branch

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 4, 2007

Dorothy S. Branch, pathologist and former longtime resident of Fort Worth, Texas, died peacefully Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007, at her home in Silver City, N.M., after a fight with cancer. A memorial service was held Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2007, at Christ the King Episcopal Church in Fort Worth. The Rev. Gayland M. Pool officiated.

Dr. Branch, who was known as Dot to her many friends, was born in Somerville, N.J., and grew up in Natchez. She was an outstanding tennis player when growing up, but medicine was her real love, and pathology her goal. After graduation from Natchez High School, she attended Louisiana State University and the University of Mississippi Medical School. She worked at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth for 20 years as an associate pathologist. In 2004 she retired to Silver City, N.M., to enjoy her dream of living in the mountains.

Dot was a woman of many talents and even more friends. Her neighbor and friend Suzanne Zanes remembers Dot as an expert needle pointer, a gourmet cook, a creative decorator, a talented seamstress and splendid artist. Her Christmas trees were fabulous, and eventually she took to leaving the tree up year-round, decorating it seasonally for the rodeo, Easter, July 4th, Halloween and so on.

Dr. Branch’s deep chuckle and sense of humor were familiar to anyone who spent time with her. Her strong charismatic personality lit up any room. Her sense of optimism fired her belief in people, and her generous spirit encouraged others to believe in themselves.

She was devoted to her extended family. She loved listening to her brother, John, tell stories in his rich Mississippi accent, and to hear her brother-in-law, Ellis, spin a tale. Her friends were loved like family, too.

Indeed, Dr. Branch’s friendship with Erin West saved West’s life, according to West herself. Dr. Branch was part of a group of friends who intervened with West to get her to seek treatment for an illness that was likely to kill her. West said there was nothing that Dot did not perform well, nor did she ever hear her speak unkindly of any group or individual. West asked Dot to be godmother to her youngest child, Elizabeth, because of her gentleness, kindness and her spirituality, which transcended any denomination.

Dr. Branch had an adventuresome spirit and loved to travel. As busy as she was with her medical career, she always took time to put together photo albums for friends of the trips they shared. She and Delores Allen, one of her closest friends, shared many adventures that took them from Big Bend National Park to Nepal. Nothing made Dot happier than to gather a few friends and take off for the wilderness and national parks. She was an enthusiastic hiker, but could also sit by a river for hours and watch the water run by, and then wander off to gather river rocks to take home.

But her two sons, John and Robert, were the light of her life, and she was the light of theirs. She was very proud of them and encouraged them to follow their hearts, both professionally and personally. Robert is a professor of guitar and recording at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, and John teaches guitar at the Austin Guitar School in Austin.

She was preceded in death by her parents, John Frederick Schmidt Jr. and Dorothy Eugenia Burke Schmidt, and her sister, Elizabeth Ann Schmidt.

Survivors, in addition to her two sons, are her brother, John Frederick Schmidt III of Clarksdale and countless friends throughout the world.