Dorothy ‘Dee' Schenck, helped found school for dyslexic children

From its humble start in 1959 operating in a basement of St. Anne's Episcopal Church with just six pupils, the Schenck School has grown into a nationally respected institution for dyslexic children, educating 250 students a year and occupying a handsome structure on a six-acre campus in Buckhead.

Much of the credit for this goes to the vision and hard work of David and Dee Schenck.

"That first year Dee taught at Lovett School to help us make ends meet, but for years and years thereafter the two of us devoted ourselves entirely to our school," Mr. Schenck said.

"Dee was the school's indispensable person," said a former director of the school, Marge Tillman of Santa Fe, N.M. "She paid the bills. She made the appointments for the children applying to the school. She organized the car pools. She tended to the kids who got banged up at recess. She was the hostess for Christmas parties for the school's board. She was the school's maintenance manager, calling a plumber or electrician when necessary. All this, and she taught classes, organized the library and raised their four children, too."

Dorothy "Dee" Schenck, 88, of Atlanta died of heart failure on Wednesday at Hospice Atlanta. Her memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Monday at All Saints Episcopal Church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Schenck School, 282 Mount Paran Road N.W., Atlanta, GA 30327-4698. H.M. Patterson & Son, Spring Hill, is in charge of arrangements.

Mrs. Schenck's proudest achievement at the school was its library. "I don't think there's a single book that she bought for it that she hadn't read first and approved," her husband said.

"I was fortunate to inherit what Dee created," said the school's current librarian, Patty McEwen of Marietta. "It's a splendid collection of children's literature for a school of our size -- around 10,000 holdings, mostly books."

Mrs. Schenck also was a stickler about proper spoken and written English, Ms. McEwen said. "If you needed a proofreader, Dee was the person to see. She would compose quizzes for us teachers about once a year on grammar and punctuation to refresh our memories and to help us brush up on the fine points. Even English teachers and editors would have a tough time scoring a 100 on one of her quizzes."

One of Mrs. Schenck's favorite pastimes was reading poetry or fairy tales to the schoolchildren. After she retired, she returned to the school each December to read Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales."

"Dee would make stories come alive," said Margaret Talmadge of Marietta, a music teacher at the school. "Usually she was a quiet person, but she became quite animated when she read. Even little children would sit still and pay attention to her."

For many years Mrs. Schenck went to an annual New England book conference held at Harvard University. "I joined her on several occasions," said Ms. Tillman, "and it seemed to me she reveled in it -- the talks we heard from authors, the browsing we did at bookstores. She was in her element."

Poetry was a familiar part of her home life as well. Mr. Schenck said it became the couple's custom to read poems to each other most nights before bedtime.

Survivors also include two daughters, Janet Schipper of Charlotte Courthouse, Va., and Margaret Shamback of Glade Spring, Va.; two sons, David H. Schenk and and William H. Schenck, both of Atlanta; and 11 grandchildren.