Dorothy Bowling Burbridge, our precious “Meemaw,” passed away Feb. 25 in Dallas. She was born Dec. 1, 1919, in Chattanooga, Tenn., and was one of nine children. After moving to Little Rock, Ark., in 1949 she eloped with the love of her life, Anderson Burbridge, who was forever “Anderson” to her and “Andy” to everyone else who knew him.
She spent the next 35 years in Little Rock, making every day just a little more festive for her husband, their three daughters, and their wonderful circle of friends.
She was a delightfully creative hostess, a little bit of Martha before there ever was a Martha, and always dressed to the nines. An accomplished but self-taught cook, she spoiled her family and guests with her specialties, the most famous of which were her macaroni and cheese and her homemade bread.
All holidays were special to her, and her family grew to expect even the more arcane holidays like Arbor Day to be celebrated in some little way. Christmas was her favorite, and she leaves behind with her children and grandchildren too many wonderful traditions to count, from her annual Christmas party to the wearing of matching Christmas pajamas, a ritual every member of the family still observes.
She was a rabid Arkansas Razorbacks fan and called the hogs if she was given any encouragement at all. She also loved thoroughbred racing, keeping a handicapper’s journal for the closest racetrack, and working in her garden with her sidekick of many years, Leo Henderson.
Her friends in Little Rock and at her second home in Jupiter, Fla., and her children and grandchildren were her solace at the saddest time of her life, when she lost her husband and best friend in 1985. But, then, dividing her time between Florida and Arkansas, she gradually returned to entertaining, and became an investor in several Broadway productions, travelling the world to attend openings of their road productions. Over those years, her friend and housekeeper Lottie Gilmore was her companion most days, and her North Grandview neighbors, whom she adored, watched over her like she was their own mother or grandmother.
To the six grandchildren who survive her, Brooks and Allie Riggins and Mckenzie, Jack, Anderson, and Margaux Mourot, she was their “Meemaw” or “Mimi,” depending on which one you asked, and she was crazy about every one of them. She was able to play with them with reckless abandon without having to balance play with discipline, allowing her to become a child again herself.
In 2005, Highland Park became her home, where she was looked over with love and diligent care by her caregivers Orine Thompson, Diane Adams, and Mary Jones. She was truly blessed to have these women in her life. Dr. Charles Sledge and Dr. Randy Kirby did their best to make her final days easy, for which the family is so grateful.
She is survived by daughter Phyllis Burbridge Riggins and son-in-law Rod Riggins, daughter Ann Burbridge, all of Dallas; daughter Karen Burbridge Mourot and son-in-law Randy Mourot, of Little Rock; her six grandchildren; her sisters Verna Mae Mitchell of Roanoke, Va., and Joyce Wheeler of Doraville, Ga.; and numerous nephews and nieces. Meemaw’s style, humor, and ability to make absolutely everything more fun will be missed.
A memorial service was held at 3 p.m. on March 5 at the Sanctuary at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, 4823 Woodlawn Drive, Little Rock. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Episcopal Collegiate School Foundation, 1701 Cantrell, Little Rock, AR, 72207, 501-978-4418, or the Highland Park Education Foundation, 4201 Grassmere Lane, Dallas, TX, 75205, 214-780-3062.