Remembering Anita Cantrell Dorsey, 79, had a gift with students as James River special ed. teacher is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

Anita Cantrell Dorsey
Anita Cantrell Dorsey

When Anita Cantrell Dorsey began substitute teaching, she never planned on turning it into a full-time job. She subbed for a number of different classes at Wakefield Forest Elementary in Fairfax County, and sometimes she worked in the special education classroom.

The administration thought so highly of her they asked Mrs. Dorsey to come back the following year as a full-time special education teacher, and she said yes.

“She loved it because she had a real impact on the kids,” said Mrs. Dorsey’s husband, Arthur. “She had a gift for it.”

Mrs. Dorsey died peacefully on June 29, 2015, at the age of 79.

Mrs. Dorsey earned her bachelor’s degree in education in 1958 at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. She later went back to school and earned her master’s degree in education in 1983 from George Mason University.

The children Mrs. Dorsey taught in her special education classes were intelligent, Mr. Dorsey said, but they usually had some type of learning disability that required a little extra help. Mrs. Dorsey had patience and ability to explain lessons in a way that made sense to those students.

Several of her students, who later graduated from college, came back to thank Mrs. Dorsey for “getting them started,” her husband said. The students’ parents also often thanked her for “getting them on the right path.”

Mrs. Dorsey retired from Wakefield Forest Elementary after more than 20 years of teaching and moved to Williamsburg with her husband, but the teaching bug didn’t let go. She taught special education for several more years at James River Elementary School.

B.J. Hosta was the music teacher at James River at that time and admired Mrs. Dorsey’s kindness toward the children and the way she cared for them. She also remembers Mrs. Dorsey’s love of music and her beautiful singing voice. She heard Mrs. Dorsey sing most often at Patriot’s Colony where both ladies were part of the chorus.

Mrs. Dorsey and her husband lived at Patriot’s Colony where she was well-known by other residents and staff alike. In addition to singing, Mrs. Dorsey created artwork, called “quilling,” to be displayed and appreciated by others, Mr. Dorsey said. Quilled art is created by rolling strips of paper into decorative designs.

Ashley Rich, the events coordinator at Patriot’s Colony, remembers Mrs. Dorsey’s artwork and said it was intricate and beautiful – much like Mrs. Dorsey herself.

When Mrs. Dorsey first became sick, Ms. Rich wasn’t aware but noticed her weight loss. When asked how she was able to lose weight, what her trick was, Mrs. Dorsey laughed as she told Ms. Rich cancer was the culprit.

“She was such a sweet spirit. Even in her dark days, she had a smile,” Ms. Rich said.

Debbie Watts, the administrative assistant for the Patriot’s Colony Wellness Clinic, saw some of the dark days Mrs. Dorsey dealt with, but agreed she was never without a smile.

“She was a very sweet lady,” Ms. Watts said. “She was going through so much, but she never failed to say something nice.”

At Patriot’s Colony, when one of the residents passes, they have a Final Farewell, said Ms. Watts. The staff and residents are notified and those who knew the deceased walk along with the funeral directors as they take the body away. It’s their way of respecting both the resident and the family, and it’s a way for friends to say goodbye.

At Mrs. Dorsey’s Final Farewell, Ms. Watts said, there were many, many residents and employees in attendance.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, at Patriot’s Colony.

She was preceded in death by her father, William Cantrell and mother, Ina Call Cantrell.

She is survived by her husband, Arthur G. Dorsey Jr.; son, Douglas Dorsey and his wife, Helen, of Sterling; daughter, Patricia Lewis, of Lanexa; grandchildren, Alexandra, Caroline and Mackenzie; and brother, Donald Cantrell, of Princeton, New Jersey.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society or to a charity of your choice.

Please leave online condolences for the family at Nelsen Funeral Home.

To view the full list of WYDaily obituaries, click here.

Amanda Thames is the obituary writer for WYDaily. Reach her at 757-565-1079 ext. 222 or