Doris Jane (Thurber) Castañares, born on May 25, 1921, in Los Angeles, Calif., died peacefully in her Odell home on Oct. 17, 2019, surrounded by her family. A celebration of her life will be held sometime next spring.
In her 98 years, Doris gave great joy and inspiration to so many people that it’s impossible to describe adequately. But here’s a try.
Growing up in Hollywood with her father, mother, and brother, Delos Packard Thurber, Madeleine Thurber and Dean Thurber (known to all as “Joe”), respectively, Doris went to vaudeville shows, saw some of the first “talkie” movies, took slow boats to Alaska and Hawaii, and played concert harp from the age of 12. She also learned to live simply on the family’s ranches in Indio and Aguanga, Calif. She often reminisced about sitting alongside a rural creek in her girlhood, sometimes with just an orange to dissect and examine with awe, over a long afternoon while her dad worked the ranch.
Doris fell in love with Mexico and Mexican culture during a family vacation. She majored in Spanish at John Marshall high school, and was fluently bilingual by the time she turned 20. She was introduced to Salvador Castañares, a Mexican immigrant and newly-minted physician who had worked his way through a U.S. education during the Great Depression. They married in 1941, not long before Salvador served in the Army Air Corps during World War II as a flight surgeon. Their children, born in 1943 (Tony Castañares), 1947 (Dennis Castañares) and 1949 (Tina Castañares) were raised a scant two miles from where Doris herself had grown up. Many of the Mexican relatives came for extended visits, or to spend a school year with them in Hollywood.
Doris was always generous with her time and talents. She helped her husband, father and brother in their offices, became a very active member of her church parish and its choir, created and delivered meals to those in need, was an unpaid substitute teacher at her children’s grade school, and much more. She volunteered at Recording for the Blind for more than 12 years, where she recorded aloud in both Spanish and English — the books ranging from engineering texts to poetry to literary fiction. She played her harp as a soloist and as part of a quintet for countless special occasions (somehow managing to move that large and heavy instrument by herself in a little Volvo station wagon).
Her children remember her can-do attitude and abilities with home repairs (plumbing, drywalling, making lamps) and with all kinds of crafts. She always remained very close to her parents, her brother Joe and his family, and her many friends. When her granddaughter, Siena, was born in 1992, Nana Doris became a frequent nanny.
Once widowed in 2005, Doris moved to the Hood River area, where her daughter, Tina, and son-in-law, Paul Woolery, had lived and worked since 1984. Doris, Tina and Paul found a home together near the Hood River fairgrounds in 2006, and enjoyed their life as a threesome until her dying breath.
Doris fell in love with the Gorge and small town life immediately. She volunteered for the SMART reading program at Mid Valley Elementary School, where she read with the little ones in both Spanish and English. She also sang in the VOCI community choir, studied advanced Spanish through Community Education, participated in a Latina breast cancer survivors’ support group, and became an enthusiastic donor and supporter in many arenas: Education, local theater and music, visual arts, pet shelters and programs benefiting injured animals, seniors and caregivers, community health workers, immigrants, farmworkers and others. She became the principal donor to The Salvador Fund, part of the Gorge Community Foundation, which continues to make small grants to local nonprofits for special events and projects. (In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Doris’s name to The Salvador Fund or Providence Hospice of The Gorge.)
Doris was loved by many new friends in the Pacific Northwest, including Tina’s book club and crafts groups. She shared how to make beautiful paper flowers, and was also an expert cross stitch and bead artist. Doris marveled when she learned to use e-mail and to surf the internet, diving headfirst especially into YouTube. (Her various e-mail names over the years included BirdLady, SquirrelLady, and HoodMomma.) She was an expert cribbage and sudoku player and worked crossword puzzles every day, up to the week before she died. Although, by the age of 93, she needed to give up the harp, she played many songs by ear on the living room piano throughout all her years in Odell. Doris was a great lover of dogs, and brought her darling Chico to the Gorge from LA when she moved.
Her son, Dennis, and his wife, Jana Castañares, retired to Parkdale in 2012 after careers as teachers in Los Angeles. Denny, Jana, Tony and his wife, Kris Sullivan, Tina, Paul, Siena and her husband, Rhys Hertafeld, and many other relatives and friends enjoyed frequent musical and festive evenings with Doris, whose high spirits and “good sport” approach to life were always uplifting.
When times were hard, she didn’t dwell on them. Her focus was always deeply and genuinely positive. Though her memory faded a bit in her last years, her droll, sunny wit remained intact. For example, blissfully responding to a sip of icy orange juice when she was no longer able to really drink, she suddenly quipped, “Going out on a cloud of orange juice!” And just a few hours before she died, despite closed eyes, she raised a finger to conduct our singing to her. Her final words were “Everything is fine” and “Que será, será!”
In Doris’ later years, adopted dogs Scampi and Boogie were constantly at her side, and all her children and their spouses were involved in helping her at home. They will always be grateful to her professional caregivers and to Providence Hospice of The Gorge, for the compassionate and very competent support they provided to the family.
Doris sang every day. Her signature song “The Bluebird of Happiness” characterized her perfectly. Laughter, songs, jokes, games, wise counsel, personal philosophy for living: We will miss our family’s own beautiful bluebird of happiness more than we can say.
Arrangements are under the direction of Anderson’s Tribute Center (Funerals • Receptions • Cremations), 1401 Belmont Ave., Hood River, Ore. Visit www.AndersonsTributeCenter.com to leave a note of condolence for the family.