Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

Dorothea Alice Mootafes – In Memory
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Dorothea Alice Mootafes – In Memory

Dorothea Mootafes


Dorothea Alice Mootafes, beloved friend and teacher, left us to be with the Lord on October 12, 2016.  She was 88 years old. Dorothea was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928 to lrene and Phillip Mootafes, Greek immigrants from the Asia Minor island of lmbros. Her parents owned the popular McKiney restaurant where she, and her older sister Angelica, often helped out.  As the sisters grew up they became lifelong fans of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. Dorothea often reminisced about at ending the 1942 World Series when the Cardinals with Stan Musial defeated Joe DiMaggio and the New York Yankees. An outstanding student, she began her secondary school years at St. Louis Beaumont High School. Dorothea, an avid baseball fan, was very proud of her five schoolmates who eventually became Major League ballplayers.

ln 1944, following the death of her father, she, her sister, and her mother, moved to Seattle, Washington, to be closer to relatives. Dorothea attended Lincoln High School where she was a member of the Senior Honor Society, the Girl’s Club cabinet, Senior Torch, the annual staff, and LLL (Loyal Lynx Ladies). 2She graduated in June, 1946. She soon enrolled at the University of Washington (UW) majored in journalism, worked on the UW DAILY, and was invited to join the journalism society. She was also a member of Phrateres, an informal group of co-eds who commuted to campus, were not members of any social sorority, and where Dorothea fondly recalled, “we made some wonderful friendships.” She remained an active member of the Phrateres Alumni, frequently serving as president and helping to administer a UW scholarship the group sponsored.  In 1949 she received her bachelor’s degree with honors.

Recruited by the Washington State Game Department (now the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) Dorothea edited the weekly, “Game Bulletin”, and prepared the annual reports. In 1953 she went to work for the Kelsonian-Tribune, Kelso, Washington’s main newspaper, where she reported on local events, and edited, “Talk of the Town”, covering women’s, club, and society news.  When the paper folded in the summer or 1954, she returned to Seattle and applied for a job at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (PI) Sports Department. Royal Brougham, the famous PI Sports Editor, told her there were no jobs for women in his department but that at some future time he might hire one to cover “girls sports” so Dorothea should “prepare” in case that should happen.

3She then returned to UW, earned a secondary education certificate, and began what became her life’s work, teaching language arts and journalism to generations of students. The Seattle PI’s’ loss became West Seattle High’s gain, as she began her thirty-four year career at the school.  Affectionately known simply as “Miss Moo”, Dorothea is lovingly remembered as the advisor of the Chinook, the award winning school newspaper. Many of her students considered her the, “best teacher they ever had” and, because of her encouragement and belief in them, went on to prominent careers in journalism, communications, and politics.

Over the years her former students have not forgotten Miss Moo.  In 2011 King County Executive Dow Constantine, at a gathering of some of her former students, presented Dorothea with a proclamation declaring October 22, 2011, ”Dorothea “Miss Moo” Mootafes Day” in King 4County. Local musician and author Glen Boyd, in his 2012 book, “Neal Young: FAQ”, wrote, “This book is lovingly dedicated to Dorothea “Miss Moo” Mootafes who recognized and encouraged my writing talent even as I likely put gray hairs on her head. Putting up with my antics back then alone qualifies Miss Moo for sainthood.” B-Town blogger Scott Shaefer has said, “She inspired me to find my voice by encouraging me to write a humor column—she had an excellent sense of humor. I thought of her not just as a teacher but as a friend, and even today when I am confronted with a difficult journalism question I often think to myself–What would Miss Moo do?” John Carlson, local radio talk show host, and former candidate for governor, reflected recently that, “her students loved her when they were in class, and their affection and respect strengthened with time. She did what every great teacher does—she made her students love the subject she taught.”

In 1961 Dorothea was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and spent a year in Ioannina, Greece, teaching English at a primary teachers college. Looking back on this experience she said, “I didn’t realize it until I got there that my Greek was pretty bad. Many of my students had not studied English at all, and at times it became a question who was the teacher, who the student.” She then returned to West Seattle High, enrolled once more at UW in the summer quarters, and in 1964 earned an MA in Education. Although a member of numerous professional organizations, she was most active in the local chapters of Delta Kappa Gamma International Society of Women Educators, the Journalism Education Association, and the Association of Women in Education.

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Dorothea’s life also revolved around her faith and her heritage. She was one of the most committed parishioners at her beloved St. Demetrios Church in Seattle. Usually she worked behind the scenes avoiding the limelight as much as possible. She was an enthusiastic pioneer and promoter of the Greek Festival in its early years, encouraging local businesses to participate, and distributing flyers and mini-boxes of sweets door-to-door all over Seattle. She even placed brochures on parked cars at the UW Husky Stadium and, at the festival, sold cookbooks she had edited. She was an energetic church worker who assisted many priests and worked especially closely with the late Father A. Homer Demopulos, helping to edit the weekly church bulletins and taping a series of church services. At various times she served on the scholarship, building, and oratorical festival Committees. She sold cakes to raise money for church projects, was a sometime church photographer and, much to the delight of the church staff, often brought them cooked meals and ice cream.

Perhaps Dorothea’s most important church role was that of unofficial historian. Over the years she wrote countless articles about St. Demetrios that appeared in the Seattle Times and the PI. So it was natural that in 1996 she would be the mastermind behind the writing of the Parish’s 75th Anniversary album. Initially planned as a photo book, the project evolved into something much more comprehensive and compelling as she teamed with others to write the definitive history of the Parish. An eleven year project, it culminated in, “A History of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church and Her People”, which chronicled the years from 1882 through 1999 and was published in 2007.

7After her retirement from the Seattle Public Schools in 1989, she served as principal caregiver for her beloved mother, Irene.

Dorothea will be remembered by all who knew her, including her fellow residents at Ida Culver Ravenna, as a gentle, caring soul who reached out to others with love and compassion, and who treated everyone as a friend. Glen Boyd described her as having, “the wings of an angel.”   Father Homer Demopulos said,”if you want to see a saint on earth look at8 Dorothea.”

She was preceded in death by her beloved sister Angelica Jaffers. She leaves her brother-in-law, Colonel Harry Jaffers of Austin, Texas; nieces and nephews, Damon Jaffers, also of Austin; Theresa Jaffers and Alex Jaffers, of Concord, California; Rebecca Jaffers, of Fairfax, Virginia; and Dr. Gregory Jaffers, of Temple, Texas; as well as several great- nephews.

May her memory be eternal.

The photographs in this story were taken from a PowerPoint presentation which was shown at Dorthea’s funeral.  Photo credits and captions were not included in the presentation.