Dorothy Downing (Dede) Hagen of Lambert’s Cove Road in Vineyard Haven died peacefully at home with her children and husband by her side in the early morning hours of Sept. 14. Defying doctors’ expectations, she valiantly battled cancer for five years. She was married to John Philip Hagen.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 17, 1964, she was the daughter of John Lee Forker and was predeceased by her mother Judith (Wigglesworth) Forker.
Dede was raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She went to Malvern and Mercer elementary schools, Hathaway Brown School and graduated from Shaker Heights High School Class of 1982. She continued her education, receiving her fine arts degree from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio and her master’s of education from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, in 1988.
Dede’s teaching career included the Boston Children’s Hospital Manville School, the Shore Country Day School in Beverly, Berwick Academy in Maine and the Rocky Hill School in Rhode Island. She also loved her role as an environmental education instructor at the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, R.I., for three years before beginning her life on Martha’s Vineyard, teaching at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School in its second year of infancy.
Dede taught at the Charter School from 1997 to 2008. She loved her students, her colleagues and her work. Dede created science lessons that are still part of the curriculum today. She was a very talented and knowledgeable teacher who cared deeply about each of her students. In the classroom, she had the ability to harness her love of reading and ideas, which she used to develop and instill an excitement about learning. Dede was beloved by her students and the families she worked with and was highly respected by her colleagues during her 11 years at the charter school.
As a mother, Dede loved being with her children and they were her inspiration to fight the illness and defy the medical statistics for so many years. An avid reader throughout her life, she kept reading journals, which she passed down to her children so they would have a better understanding of how she felt about all the books she loved so dearly. In addition, she reveled in traveling with her family on trips to Florida, Ohio, Hingham and Monhegan, Me., even when her illness advised otherwise. She always enjoyed the outdoors from an early age, from exploring the banks of the Allegheny River with childhood friends at her family’s summer retreat in Rockmere, Pa., endurance excursions with Outward Bound, hiking and alpine skiing, to sailing the waters around Newport, R.I., on 12-metre yacht charters. She also loved animals, especially Sabu, her 140-pound gentle giant Alaskan malamute, who was a regular companion on long walks through the woods and fields surrounding Tashmoo Farm.
Dede was a valued friend to her women’s group, though her illness cut short her participation with the group. She would often express her eternal gratitude for the love and support extended to her and her family by the entire Island community and beyond. Dede embraced this Island as the Island embraced her. She loved Martha’s Vineyard. She was a fighter, unaccustomed to defeat, but after five years of overwhelming courage and determination, her illness overtook her and we will all miss her dearly.
She is survived by her husband of 15 years, John; her two children, Hannah and Garrett, ages 10 and 13; her father, John Lee Forker and his wife, Margaret Forker of Gates Mills, Ohio; her maternal grandmother, Dorothy Downing Wigglesworth of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Naples, Fla.; her brother, James Bently Forker of Hingham; her sister, Elizabeth Graham Forker of Naples, Fla.; a half-sister, Cynthia Forker, and a half-brother, David Forker, both of Gates Mills, Ohio, and other extended family members.
Her memorial service will be held in the West Tisbury Congregational Church in West Tisbury at 1 p.m. on Nov. 10 officiated by the Rev. Cathlin Baker, followed by a potluck reception at the Agriculture Hall on Panhandle Road in West Tisbury at 3 p.m.
Donations in Dede’s name may be made to You’ve Got a Friend, P.O. Box 1317, West Tisbury, MA 02575 (please write Dede Hagen in the memo), Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group, P.O. Box 2214, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568 or Options in Education (Charter School) P.O. Box 869, West Tisbury, MA 02575.