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Margaret’s Garden, a tribute to a tender of flowers

By Carol Sones Shelter - | Aug 4, 2021

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary Siblings Bill Dorman, Susan Dublin and Sally Bennett stand in the memorial garden dedicated to their late mother, Margaret (McClain) Dorman. The site is at Picture Rocks Baptist Church.

PICTURE ROCKS – A marker at the side entrance of the Picture Rocks Baptist Church bears the inscription — “Margaret’s Garden, in loving memory of Margaret McClain Dorman, 1911 – 2001.” We learned its significance from the deceased’s children, while gathered around the kitchen table in the Bill and Nancy Dorman home in Picture Rocks.

Happenstance brought the inquirer and Margaret’s children together that day, for the daughters were visiting from out of state. They were Sara “Sally” Dorman Bennett of Fairfax Station, Virginia and Susan Dorman Dublin of Columbus, Ohio. Both the girls are retired from nursing, Bill is a Navy veteran, currently an officer for the Picture Rocks borough. All are Hughesville High School graduates; Sally in 1955, Bill in 1957 and Susan 1963.

Following their mother’s death and with funds given in her memory, the family approached the church who agreed to a memorial garden. “We contacted Eshleman’s Nursery of Montoursville who incorporated some of mothers plants into the landscape,” Bill said.

Margaret’s plants were easily dug and transported, for the backyard of the Dorman home on Main Street was adjacent the alley of the church. In addition, Mr. Collins had placed a wall of creek stones along the sidewalk in front of the building. Sue said, “Almost every kid in town tried to walk on the stone wall,” impossible as the uneven edges jolt upward.

All the siblings agreed that, “Mother loved flowers, her favorites were roses. She only grew flowers, save the annual rhubarb and possibly some spring lettuce.”

To bring Margaret’s earlier days into focus; she graduated from the village’s educational system in 1928, two years after the Picture Rocks High School was built. She then studies at Bucknell for a couple of years.

Later she would met her future husband, Sherwood Dorman as introduced by Howard Peterman owner of the garage just south of the McClain home. Dressed in a police uniform, the dashing young man had previously known Peterman who had formerly worked for the highway department in Sullivan County while Dorman was stationed at the Dushore police station. Dorman was a native of Yeagertown, Mifflin County. The common connection between the young people when they met were English setters, which at the time Margaret’s parents raised. Her future husband was also a dog enthusiast.

Speaking of transitions during his father’s career, Bill said, “In his job, dad had ridden horses, motorcycles and driven cars.” After marriage, the McClain home became a three generation family household, as Dorman didn’t want his family uprooted each of the many times he was transferred. “He finally settled at the Montoursville station,” Bill said.

As the stories were told, it seems flowers were not Margaret’s lone involvement.

“She loved to bake and baked for everyone. Known for her sticky buns, she also was often referred to as The Cookie Lady,” Bill said. “Mother knew no strangers for she had helped her mother in the borough post ffice, the elder having been sworn into the position.” Her mother was Alta Blanche (Amos Smith) McClain and the post office was next door in what was recently a hardware store.

photo provided Margaret (McClain) Dorman

Also when the bank ceased operations, the building was turned into a soda fountain and lunch room serving hot roast beef sandwiches to factory workers. Sue said, “Poppy kept candy in the vault. One day as I was sitting on the steps outside sharing a lollipop with my dog, a customer went inside asking mom, “Do you know what your daughter’s doing?”

The destination of Margaret’s flowers were not only to the church site, but as they moved, the daughters took starts with them. Both recalled the leafy hosta plants and Sue told of wisteria so invasive she wished she left it.

At the memorial garden site, church volunteers tend the plants along with Bill and Nancy, who is most often tending the area. Of the three siblings, Sally is the one who can’t help but pull weeds like her mother’s toiling of years ago, just as she did the day of our visit.

In another area of the church landscape, a second plaque honors the late Don and Mary (Sprout) Artley.