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99-year-old Franklin woman gets lifetime achievement award for mental health advocacy

Dorothy Crawford, 99, of Franklin, has fought for better services in Macon County and across the state. Many consider her a forerunner who reached out to people who were once overlooked. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Our Person of the week has helped improve lives of people with mental health needs for six decades.

Dorothy Crawford, 99, of Franklin, has fought for better services in Macon County and across the state. Many consider her a forerunner who reached out to people who were once overlooked.

Her remarkable resume prompted Vaya Health to nominate her for a lifetime achievement honor from the state council of community programs.

"Leadership award for lifetime career," she said, proudly holding up a plaque. "I guess they might have given it to the oldest one instead of the one that needs it the most," she said with a laugh.

"Miss Dorothy was way ahead of her time when it comes to mental health," County Commissioner Ronnie Beale said. "She knew before it was a topic of discussion that all health began with mental health. "

The Dorothy and John Crawford Senior Center in Franklin has a lot to live up to, especially considering who it's named after.

"But keep on and keep on keepin' on here," Dorothy said to staff members recently. "We need you."

"Well keep on, keep on, keep on," Dorothy repeated.

Of course, she started 'keepin' on' before most of us were born.

For generations, she's shown compassion for her community and has largely focused on the mental health dilemma.

"Because if we do not have them when need them, it's too late sometimes," she explained.

Dorothy was a member of the Commission on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services. As director of the county DSS office, she was concerned about the most vulnerable residents.

"I don't think they think they can be helped, that they were born this way and that's the best they can do," Crawford said. "But it's not."

Considering what we know now, it's clear that in 1941 she met her match in every way.

"We met at the University of North Carolina," she said, holding up a photo. She and her husband John were married for 74 years until he passed away last year. The senior center bears their names.

John was a former mail worker who was active in the community with the Chamber of Commerce, as a mason and a church leader.

"And I don't know where this was taken, but this is a picture of John and me. At least we were having a good time!" she noted.

She still has the stamina to advocate for those less fortunate.

"Everybody has a place," Dorothy said.

"Whatever awards she gets is never enough to know the literally thousands of people Miss Dorothy has touched over the years," Beale says.

Even on the verge of 100, Dorothy keeps up the pace, and it's hard for folks half her age to keep up.

"But keep on keepin' on all of you!" she said.

"Tryin' to keep up with what I have to do!" she adds.

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