Dottie was born at what was then known as the Osteopathic Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. This hospital is no longer in operation. She was the youngest of 4 children (two other boys had died in infancy) and the only girl. The family lived in Claycomo, Missouri, but moved from Claycomo to Smithville, Missouri when Dottie was 5 months old.

Two things stand out from Dottie’s childhood. First - she was a born care-giver. Most photos from her early childhood show her tending to her dolls or to puppies, reading books to them, dressing them or just providing lots of love. Second – she was a VERY early reader. Dottie’s mother taught her to read when she was about 3 -4 years old. Dottie often spent time doing “homework” with her older brothers, long before she had begun kindergarten herself. 

When Dottie was taken to the school for pre-admission testing for kindergarten, the teacher (Mrs. Thompson) asked her mother if Dottie could count to ten yet. Dottie piped up and said, “Sure I can. Do you want it in English, Spanish, German or Japanese?” (Her mother taught her to count in Spanish, her father taught her to count in German, and her uncle, who had served in the military, taught her to count in Japanese.) The teacher was not amused. 

This was back in the days when Kindergarten was only half-day, included a nap and milk break and was strictly for learning to get along with others and to get used to a school environment. A few fundamentals like counting to 10 and perhaps learning most of the alphabet might be included, but weren’t required. One wasn’t actually supposed to “LEARN” anything in kindergarten and Mrs. Thompson didn’t really appreciate it when students could already read, count and add. 

Once in Kindergarten, Dottie was absent for a day. On the day she was absent, Mrs. Thompson gave each student a little story book. They were instructed to take it home and have their parents read it to them. Then the next day, they could return to class and share the story during Show-and-Tell time. When Dottie returned to class the next day, Mrs. Thompson gave her one of the books. Dottie sat down and read it right away. When it came time for Show-and-Tell, Dottie asked to share her story. Mrs. Thompson would not allow it because Dottie had not taken the book home for her parents to read to her. She would not accept that Dottie was able to read the book on her own. It’s amazing how much the concept of kindergarten has evolved. 

Smithville schools at the time did not have any provisions for students who were advanced academically. School could have been a real burden for Dottie due to boredom or lack of stimulation, but she had wonderful teachers who worked with her, allowing her to work “ahead” or independently and often calling on her to help with students who were struggling. 

Dottie’s oldest brother, Tom, was one of the strongest supporters of her academic achievements. He often shared his reading and other homework assignments with her. When he was in 8th grade, his class was assigned Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as a reading assignment. Dottie, who was in first grade at the time, remembers sitting side by side with Tom on the couch and reading it with him. They took turns reading the dialogue. 

Dottie’s brother, Mike, was her protector. Once when she was very young, she committed some infraction that was going to lead to a spanking. (No one, to this day, remembers what her misdeed was.) Michael decided that his little sister was NOT going to get a spanking, so he picked her up and locked himself in the bathroom with her. He refused to come out unless their father would promise to not spank her. Finally, Daddy said, “Fine, make your choice, but SOMEONE is getting a spanking. You decide which one of you.” Mike chose to take the spanking for his sister – and he’s never let her forget it, either! 

Dottie’s brother, Dan, who is almost 4 years older than her, was her friend and playmate. They had great fun together and were both very mischievous. Whatever Dan did, Dottie knew she could do, too, and usually did, or at least had great fun trying. 

When she was about 5 or 6, she had her own football uniform complete with helmet and shoulder pads (a hand-me-down from one of the boys). The Helm team would often play against all the other neighborhood boys. Mike would play center, Dan would play tackle and they made Dottie the quarterback. The play usually went one of two ways. 

Mike would snap the ball to Dottie, then reach between his legs, pull her through, pick her up in his arms, football and all, and run. Dan would look fierce and growl at the other players. Dottie would score. 

Mike would snap the ball to Dottie, she would begin to run. Mike and Dan would look fierce and growl at the other players who would stop in their tracks. They knew better than to mess with the little Helm girl. Dottie would score. 

Dottie’s mother died in childbirth at the age of 39 when Dottie was ten years old. Her baby brother, Matthew Mark, died a day later. It was a difficult time for the family, but with the support of the church and the community and the steadfast and unquestionable love from their father, Dottie and her brothers continued to thrive. 

Their father remarried a couple of years later, this time to Carol Wolverton, the high school women’s phys. ed. teacher. When Dottie was 16, the first of her two younger brothers was born. The second was born when she was 18 and a freshman in college. Ryan and Scott will always be her “babies” no matter how old they are or how many children they have of their own. 

People often ask Dottie if she was the oldest, youngest or middle child. Her response is usually, “Yes.” She was the youngest until she was 16, when she became a middle child. However, at the same time, since her older brothers had all moved out of the house by that time, she effectively also became the oldest child. 

Dottie attended college at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri with a major in Religion (and further emphasis on Music, English and Classical Languages – Koine Greek and Latin). After graduation, she began seminary at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, but did not complete this course of study. She moved to Chester, Illinois to assist her brother Michael and his wife with their baby, Natalie, since it was tax season and they owned several H&R Block offices. She stayed in Chester for two years, working as Head Salad Cook at a large smorgasbord restaurant that opened about that time. 

Then Dottie’s father called, asking for her help. Her stepmother had become ill and Daddy needed help caring for the two young boys. Dottie moved back home and cared for the boys for about a year, until their mother had recovered. She then moved into Kansas City and took a job working for the Kansas City Health Department. About a year after she started working there, she attended a free Friday night concert at Crown Center where she met Pat Lafferty, who would soon become her husband. 

Within a couple of months after their marriage, they found out they were expecting. Pregnancy complications began almost immediately. Dottie ended up on complete bed rest for several months. The baby was delivered 8-10 weeks early, after suffering growth retardation in utero and actually beginning to lose weight prior to being delivered. Colleen Mariah was delivered via emergency C-Section and came into the world tiny, but strong and screaming. Life was never the same after that. 

Because of her rocky start, Colleen has some significant delays in development and learning. The first few years of her life were spent in a whirlwind of physical therapy, language therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, behavior therapy, etc. It was a very exhausting time for Dottie and Pat. 

When Colleen was beginning middle school, there was no before or after care available through the schools and finding someone to watch her while Dottie worked became very difficult. She did not (and still doesn't) handle being alone in the house. The difficult decision was made to have Dottie resign from the Health Department as a full-time employee. She was very soon asked to return on a part-time basis. She remained there part-time for several more years. 

In 2004, Dottie was hospitalized and diagnosed with Viral Cardiomyopathy and Congestive Heart Failure. Although the doctors could not with any certainty say when it had happened, it appeared that at some point in the past, a simple virus like the cold or flu had attacked Dottie’s heart and caused muscle damage. She was subsequently declared disabled. 

Due to other complications and a later blood infection that damaged many of the veins in her legs, mobility and activity are impaired for Dottie, but she remains very active in many ways, singing in the church choir, writing and teaching at church, writing and illustrating children’s books, doing graphics, illustrations, and desktop publishing projects for herself and others, creating MicroMiniatures, making jewelry for gifts, taking photographs and staying involved in an active online community of friends. 

Life may be more difficult now, but Dottie is determined that will not stop her from leading a very productive, full life and continuing to learn and grow intellectually and in other ways as well. There are always new things to be learned, new challenges to be conquered, and new experiences to be enjoyed.

Dottie’s father, Tom, died of esophageal cancer in 2001, just shy of his 70th birthday and just a few days before the events of 9/11. He was a retired stationary engineer and was a major influence in her life and she misses him greatly. There are so many things she’d love to be able to share or discuss with him. 

Dottie’s step-mother, Carol, died of congestive heart failure, at age 59, in 2004. 

Dottie’s oldest brother, Tom, is a phenomenal musician. He lives in New York City where he works to prepare shows for Broadway. He is also the Musical Director for Pittsburgh’s CLO Theater. 

Dottie’s older brother, Mike, is divorced and living in Chula Vista, California. He works as an accountant. He has two daughters, Natalie Michelle and Deidre Ann. Natalie and her husband, Matt, have one child, Lucille Rose.

Dottie’s older, brother, Dan and his wife, Valerie, live in Smithville, Missouri. Dan works for the military in Leavenworth, Kansas, managing their communications and IT programs. Dan and Val have three children, Heather Ann, Mark Daniel and Jane Marie (Janie). Heather and her husband, Shane, have two children, Lucas Scott and Amira Jane. Mark and his wife, Valerie, have two children, Leah Renee and Alexander Emmett. Janie is a social worker and aunt-extraordinaire. 

Dottie’s younger brother, Ryan, and his wife, Sarah, live in an old restored Victorian home outside of Smithville. Ryan manages Major Lumber in Smithville and is very active in his church. They have one daughter, Grace Lily and a son, Joshua Wesley. 

Dottie’s youngest, brother, Scott, and his wife, Jenny, live in Shawnee, Kansas. Scott works for the Overland Park Kansas Department of Parks and Recreation. They have two children, Thomas Hanson and Addison Jo (Addie Jo). 

There is also a very large extended family and many friends who are considered family. 

Family holidays with this clan are always great fun!