Dolores Yvette Baum Strohbeen, 86, often a soprano soloist at Walnut Hill Bible Church in Baraboo, Wisconsin, died Thursday, Sept. 28, after a decade-long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Dolores had a voice and she used it — always “singing in the rain,” to quote one of her favorite Sinatra songs, “laughing at the clouds, and ready for love.” Dolores sang for her children and grandchildren. Dolores sang in church choirs directed by her husband Donald Strohbeen, a professional musician and longtime high school band director. She sang for her church family at the First Baptist Church in Baraboo, now Walnut Hill. For years, Dolores, toting a portable karaoke machine and a case of accompaniment tapes, inspired the residents of Jefferson Meadows retirement home in Baraboo with her music.
Even as the amyloid tangles and plagues eclipsed her brain, Dolores held on to the lyrics of a few Christmas carols and a bit of Bing Crosby. She might dream of a “White Christmas” or “wish you a merry Christmas” – in April or in June. And she meant it.
Dolores was born on February 10, 1931, on a couch in the living room of her parents’ home in New Richmond, Wisconsin. Her father was Herbert Baum, a foreman at Doughboy Industries, and her mother was Margaret Peters Baum, a writer and homemaker.
Dolores graduated from New Richmond High School as the salutatorian of her class. She received a full-ride scholarship at Wisconsin State College, Milwaukee, where she planned to study journalism. She was homesick her first semester, and she missed her boyfriend Donald. She wrote home to her mother: “I just don’t feel like doing anything right now. I keep thinking of Donnie. It gets worse all the time.”
Dolores eloped with the curly-haired, trumpet-playing Donnie on Aug. 18, 1950. The practical 19-year-old wore a new wool suit that she planned to later repurpose. It was a hot day and a long drive across Iowa state line. Sweat ensued but love was served.
Donald graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, and taught music in public schools across Wisconsin. The couple moved to Almond, Oxford, White Lake and Phillips. Dolores and Donald had three children — David, Deborah and Deidre. Dolores started a preschool program in Phillips. She sang in the choir, taught Sunday School and directed Christmas music programs at Trinity Lutheran Church in Phillips.
Donald, Dolores and Deidre moved to Baraboo in 1978 after the purchase of Out of This World Resort and Campground across from Devil’s Lake State Park. The family immediately rebranded the resort as Nordic Pines. Dolores worked as manager, receptionist, reservation coordinator, housekeeper, painter of cottages, accountant, vacation consultant, complaint department, interior decorator, chief cook and bottle washer.
Dolores was proud of her children and grandchildren’s education, careers, and relationships. She recorded her thoughts about family, the resort business and her relationship with God in dozens of handwritten journals until 2010, when she was no longer able to write.
Dolores gave countless hours of service at Our Savior Lutheran Church and Walnut Hill Bible Church in Baraboo. At both, she worked as a devoted Sunday School teacher and director of children’s musical programs. She adopted children in developing nations through a relief organization and was a faithful correspondent with each child and a generous giver of gifts.
Dolores’ family has been saying good-bye to her for many years as dementia stealthily stole her away. Her funny valentine Donnie kept her out of trouble, made sure she ate her breakfasts, entertained her by watching old movies on VHS tapes, and drove her on numerous trips around Baraboo to calm her.
The couple celebrated their 67th anniversary in the memory care unit at Our House Senior Living in Wisconsin Dells on Aug. 18, toasting the decades with sparkling apple juice and chocolate cake. “That’s life, funny as it may seem,” as Sinatra sings. Dolores said the cake was delicious.
After weeks of final visits from friends and family who sang, prayed, and played music for her, Dolores died in her room at Our House with her sister-in-law Paula Zoe Baum at her side.
Dolores is survived by her husband Donald; her children David and Irene Strohbeen and David and Deidre Pike; grandchildren Benjamin and Patrick Strohbeen, and Daniel, Tabitha, Stephanie, and Jesse Pike; siblings Bettie, Robert and Gary Baum; and great-grandchildren Lilia and Lathan Pike and Coralee Miller. Dolores was preceded in death by daughter Deborah Ann Ball and grandson David Eric Pike.
A service for Dolores will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct 7 at Walnut Hill Bible Church in Baraboo. Visitation with family starts at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, consider a gift to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, http://www.curealz.org/