Katherine  Dickson Hamel's Memorial

Katherine Dickson Hamel
(1921 - 2015)

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General Details

Name: Ms Katherine Dickson Hamel
Nick Name: Katy
Maiden Name: Eltzroth
Gender: Female
Age: 94 years old
Lived: Thursday, 17 March 1921 - Tuesday, 14 April 2015

My Story

Katherine Eltzroth Dickson Hamel passed peacefully last night in her sleep while resting at home on April 14, 2015.

Born March 17, 1921, Kate was part of a big family in Indianapolis active in local politics, but Kate was a bit of a rebel: once chased by her brother Elbert from grammar school, she stood her ground, and punched Elbert, knocking him out. She was mortified that she had 'killed Elbert.' Elbert survived, but was the one who was punished.

As a child she had beautiful reddish brown hair, all of which she lost when she contracted Scarlet Fever and nearly died as a child. Even so, she went to school bald not worried about teasing after she recovered because as she put it she "didn't need hair to learn her lessons." She got that pretty hair back and didn't miss much school at all.

Kate married Robert McCloy Dickson on September 27, 1942 and was a Blue Star wife with three brothers and a husband in active duty during WWII, before the Sullivan law went into effect. After she went to Columbus Georgia to live near base before her husband deployed to Germany (and after swatting cockroaches and bedbugs in the flophouse before bed for months), Kate put aside her college education to go to work for Indianapolis Power and Light to fill in for those called overseas. All her family came home safely, and when Bob Dickson rejoined her after V-Day they started a family.


Kate studied early childhood education, was a big believer in childhood cognitive development, and was a founder of the first-ever cooperative preschool in Indianapolis (and probably the State of Indiana).

Robert Dickson was in the meatpacking business, working at Hygrade Foods in downtown Indianapolis. When the Indianapolis plant closed, he was transferred to far-flung Iowa – before the Interstate Highway system was complete there, making it a long, long way from home. Kate happily went with him and her two boys, and promptly got involved in local politics in Storm Lake, Iowa.

Kate often said the signal event in the women’s rights movement was permanent press: women weren't stuck ironing, so they had a chance to look outward and upward. We probably had the only McGovern for President lawn sign in western Iowa.She supported progressive causes in the seventies that are still current and important today; equal pay for women, the right for mothers to breastfeed in the workplace, and advocacy for seniors.

Tragically, Robert, her high school sweetheart and love of her life, passed at an early age. For Kate, her next steps were straightforward. The way she told it, instead of going to work in the local dress shop or waiting for some man to rescue her as a widow, she applied for Pell Grants, took out student loans, went back to school at the local small college and earned her degree, graduating Summa Cum Laude from Buena Vista University.

At the end of the month, dinner became broiled baked beans with tomatoes on toast in the oven when the money for meat ran out, but she always provided for her two sons while she worked to make things better. The boys went to sleep to the sound of her typing term papers.

She then commuted across the state to take graduate courses, impressing upon her two teenage sons that they needed to be self-reliant and responsible. She took them downstairs to the laundry room, and said “this is the washer, this is the dryer: the instructions are on the lid”.

After college Kate was offered a position at the University of Iowa, where she was administrator of the University’s School of Religion, a proud member of AFSCME Local 12 of Council 61. She relished the intellectual environment of that great state university, and she loved Iowa City. So much so, she ran for City Council, served two terms as was President Pro Tempore of the council her second term. She was a key supporter of the downtown pedestrian mall and led the effort to place the Johnson County Senior Center in the middle of town, where elders could interact with students instead of being shut away in a county home.

She always had a place in her home to put up a Democratic organizer in a spare bedroom.  Once, during the 1988 caucuses, she was supporting Paul Simon (the most liberal, of course), and she had a Gore staffer staying in her spare room.  When asked about it, she said “He needed a place to stay, he’s doing what he believes in. At least he isn’t a Republican.”  We kind of think she’d take in a young GOP staffer, too.

After retiring from the University, she met a kind and gentle man from New Jersey through neighbors, and once again picked up and moved across the country, where she became an active member of the community in Watchung, New Jersey. Sadly, her second husband passed after a struggle with Alzheimer’s, and Kate decided to pick up and move again: this time to Northern Virginia, because ‘there were some things she wanted to teach her grandsons.’

Fiercely independent, Kate was a full-fledged member of what Tom Brokaw called ‘America’s Greatest Generation’, having survived the Great Depression and the War, she was always doing for herself to her last day. She stayed involved in her community as a precinct captain, and proudly hosted and introduced her latest favorite candidate, now-Congressman Don Beyer in her last campaign effort. However, a last conversation with her included her mention of her lifelong ambition of helping to elect “not just any woman but the right woman” to the White House. She was thrilled by Hillary Clinton’s announcement, and it was part of our last conversation with her: excited, hopeful, motivated as always.

She was also a terrific mom, an amazing mother-in-law, and a loving grandmother. She had a great last day, including time with one of her treasured daughters-in-law, catching up on grandchildren,and even attended a party at her residence called "Martinis and Manicures." We don't know if she partook of either, but we were told she worked the room like a true pol. She then went upstairs, got comfortable on her favorite sofa, and went to sleep.


Albie Copeland Dickson was last with her before she passed.  Her last conversation with Kate went like this:

“You know I am 94”

“You are a remarkable 94”

“I guess I am pretty remarkable, aren’t I?”

Yes you are, Kate, yes you are.

May the Lord bless you and keep you until we meet again.

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Biography

Fathers Name: Carter W. Eltzroth
Mothers Name: Gladys Broshear Eltzroth
Spouse's Name: Robert McCloy Dickson
Children's Names: Jeffrey Robert, Timothy Eltzroth
Siblings Names: Carter W. Eltzroth, Jr. Elbert E. Eltzroth, Edwin L. Eltzroth
Country of Birth: USA
Country of Residence: USA
City of Residence: USA
Occupation: Education & Training
Marital Status: Widowed
Religion: Other Christian

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Passing

Date of Passing: 14 April 2015
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