Dorothy Clements Spence Mitchum (above, with husband Robert), a writer and the widow of the late actor Robert Mitchum, died at Serenity House hospice in Santa Barbara, Calif., on April 12, 2014, just 20 days shy of her 95th birthday.
Born in Camden, Delaware, Spence met Mitchum, two years her elder, when she was 14, after a brief courtship with his handsome younger brother John. Robert Mitchum had already begun his vagabond life, and when he returned to Delaware, he met the dark-haired girl his brother was courting. They were married in the kitchen of a Methodist parson in Dover, Delaware, on March 16, 1940.
Dorothy attended Peirce College in Philadelphia with the aim of becoming a secretary, but she abandoned that ambition to accompany her husband to Hollywood, where he eventually found his fortune as a movie actor. Along the way, the newlyweds worked for astrologer Carroll Righter. Dorothy scribed horoscopes and developed a lifelong interest in astrology.
By this time Robert Mitchum’s acting career took off, Dorothy had her hands full raising two sons while being a glamorous Hollywood wife. She was a founding member of S.H.A.R.E. (Share Happily And Reap Endlessly), a charitable organization comprised of women who still produce an annual show to benefit mentally challenged individuals. In her many years of service with S.H.A.R.E., Dorothy displayed her talents as a dancer and organizer.
In 1952 Dorothy gave birth to a surprise third child, a daughter. Once again, her writing career remained on the back burner as she juggled an infant into the mix. She still managed to accompany her husband to far-flung film locations and create the semblance of home wherever they roamed.
In 1984 Dorothy penned the forward to a new edition of a cherished book, Dana and Ginger Lamb’s “Quest for the Lost City, A True Life Adventure.”
After living on the Eastern shore of Maryland from 1960 to 1966, Dorothy and Robert moved back to Los Angeles and then, in 1977, to Montecito in Santa Barbara. They enjoyed their life together there until Mitchum’s passing in 1997. Once widowed, Dorothy devoted herself to her eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Dorothy loved to reminisce and regaled listeners with stories such as the time she and Robert heard an unknown singer in a small club in Biloxi, Mississippi. The couple were very impressed by the young man’s talents. On returning to their hotel in New Orleans, they bumped into their acquaintance, Colonel Tom Parker, and told him he ought to check out the singer: Elvis Presley. Elvis later became a family friend.
Dorothy is survived by her three children – James, an actor-entrepreneur, Chris, an actor/politician and Petrine, a writer; her 16 grand and great-grandchildren; her younger sister Bette Compton; and her nieces Janeen Gaul and Judy Fowler.
Dorothy’s ashes will be scattered at sea so she can meet up with Robert at Easter Island per a long-ago pact between them.
A private celebration of her life will follow in May, during her birth sign of Taurus. Donations may be made to the Salvation Army, which kept Robert alive during his early vagabond years, and any charity that helps animals.