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home : top news : top news July 22, 2014

11/12/2012 8:48:00 AM
Looking Back On A Life Of Service
Photo by Sally Cook
Retired Navy nurse Dori Hamilton spins wool sheared from Oxford and Romney sheep crosses she raises at her Tranquil Vewe Croft Farm in Lisbon and shows off her yarn and knitted products, during pre-Christmas crafts fairs in the area.
+ click to enlarge

Photo by Sally Cook

Retired Navy nurse Dori Hamilton spins wool sheared from Oxford and Romney sheep crosses she raises at her Tranquil Vewe Croft Farm in Lisbon and shows off her yarn and knitted products, during pre-Christmas crafts fairs in the area.

Dori Hamilton
+ click to enlarge

Dori Hamilton

Sally Cook
News Correspondent

LISBON, N.H. -- She grew up on dairy farms in Bucks County, Pa., joined the Navy Nurse Corps during the Vietnam War, cared for two presidents and traveled the world. Then for the past 17 years, following her retirement as a Navy Commander, Dori Hamilton has been living the life she loves in New Hampshire raising sheep, spinning yarn and knitting.

She doesn't have a lot of yarns to spin about the Vietnam War or her 20 years of service to her country as a naval nurse that included a stint at the White House caring for presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Instead, she said, her experiences have led her to really appreciate her country and the freedoms its citizens enjoy.

"I went into the military, because the Vietnam War was going on, and I had a skill that was needed there," said Hamilton, who by 1969 had her nursing degree from Jefferson University plus a year of hospital work.

"I felt very privileged to be there with skills I knew could help them," she said. "We had a big Naval hospital in Danang, where we treated every one. Of course, our military came first, but we took care of everyone who needed medical care."

Born Dorothea Hamilton, her nickname was "Dottie." That changed when the young nurse reported to the Danang hospital, and the senior nurse was also known as Dottie. Two Dotties wouldn't do her boss decided, so she insisted Hamilton become Dori, and the name stuck.

After a year in Vietnam, Hamilton was assigned to other Naval hospitals or medical centers across the country. From San Diego and Oakland to Whidbey and Long Beach in California, her 20-year career wound its way to The White House in Washington, D.C., Bethesda, Md., and Guantanamo Bay. In the meantime she earned her bachelor's and master's degree at the University of Washington.

"The entire experience made me appreciate our country and our freedoms," she said. "It was a privilege to serve and take care of the men who have served our country. They are the ones who deserve to be honored."

As for her service to two different presidents from diverse political parties, she said she admired both men for their individual qualities.

"Their philosophies of governing were different," Hamilton observed. "But we have checks within government that provide balances. It certainly gave me appreciation of our government."

How did she decide to buy a 40 acre farm and retire in Lisbon? Hamilton said she had packed up her backpack and tent to explore for her the unknown territory of Vermont and New Hampshire for two weeks.

"I fell in love with the White Mountains and the area," she said, adding she's been happy here ever since she made the decision.

Even though she is now involved in raising sheep at her old Lisbon farm, having them clipped twice a year, and the rest of the process that brings their wool to finished products, Hamilton is very involved in her community locally and statewide.

Following retirement from the Navy, she served as a registered nurse for North Country Home Health and Hospice for three years, before deciding to settle in as a sheep farmer. Acceptance to her Sweeney Road neighborhood four months after she moved in came when a neighbor came over and said, "I guess you're staying, so you'll need these," as he presented two kittens.

Election day, she worked the polls as ballot clerk, she's served on the school board and she never misses a town meeting. Settling down in Lisbon, after moving around so often during the previous 20 years, meant putting down roots and getting involved.

"I'm glad to see how many people came out to vote this year," she said, explaining she is glad that in New Hampshire residents have such great opportunities to participate in local government.

She's a member of the N.H. Sheep and Wool Growers Association, the General Federation of Women's Clubs of N.H. and the Naval Nurse Corps Association. The first published "Living off the Lamb," a cookbook with 400 mostly lamb recipes she contributed to as a way to promote interest in raising sheep and eating the meat.

"Having seen the world, I'm glad to be back on a farm. I just love being here where it's peaceful and quiet," Hamilton said. 'I just love living in the North Country -- I wouldn't live anywhere else."

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