Maeystown woman a true Monroe County treasure

Dorothy Brandt volunteers with the Waterloo VFW Auxiliary during Friday’s fish fry. (Kermit Constantine photo)

Dorothy Brandt is full of interesting stories and knowledge of local history. This could be attributed to her nearly 88 years in the county, the fact she volunteers at several different places, or a combination of the two.

Brandt spends countless hours making quilts that she donates to Hoyleton Ministries, an organization that helps reach out to vulnerable children and families in local communities.

“I made eight just last year,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for a number of years, so I wouldn’t even venture a guess as to how many in total.”

Brandt is very passionate about helping children in violent homes, and donating quilts is one way she tries to help with the ministry.

“My hope is that an afghan will break the cycle of violence in a home,” she said. “It’s basically a Christian way of looking at things.”

She calls Hoyleton her “ministry of choice,” and has donated much of her time and money over the years to the foundation.

When the church in Fults could no longer host the organization’s walk-a-thon after the 1993 flood, Brandt helped bring the event to Maeystown, and she’s been involved ever since.

She has worked at the information desk inside the Monroe County Courthouse for more than 10 years, and volunteers much of her time to St. John United Church of Christ in Maeystown, where she lives.

“I’ve served 30 years on conference-level committees, besides being a delegate for my local church with voting privileges,” she said.

Brandt even gets to vote at meetings that are called when someone has graduated from the seminary and wants to be ordained as a minister.

“They cannot be ordained until they receive a call from a church,” she said. “They have to go through a process and we have to vote on whether or not we think they will be good as a minister.”

She was a member and past president of the Waterloo American Legion Auxiliary for many years until it disbanded.

When that happened, she had already paid her dues for the year and decided to join the Columbia auxiliary.

“I’m a life member of the VFW auxiliary here in Waterloo through my son’s military service, and my American Legion membership was through my late husband, a World War II veteran,” she said.

She was recognized last year by the Columbia American Legion Auxiliary as a 60-year member.

Military service is big in Brandt’s family. She has grandchildren who are in the service, along with a brother who took grenade fire in Vietnam.

She fondly remembers her maternal grandparents, who owned the silent movie theater in old Valmeyer when she was young.

“They gave away dishes as attendance prizes,” she said. “I still have one of those, and I told Dennis Knobloch when the (Valmeyer) museum opens, I will donate it.”

She remembers her mother playing the electric player piano in the theater to provide music to go along with the silent movies.

Her maternal grandparents also brought electricity to old Valmeyer.

“It was long before Illinois Power even came through,” she said. “This grandfather was an engineer, and he had the knowledge to get the power plant started there.”

She graduated from Valmeyer High School during a hard time.

“When I graduated from Valmeyer High School in 1944, the levee broke at the end of April,” she recalls. “The class of ’44 did not have a senior prom, and we didn’t have yearbooks because it was wartime and there was a paper shortage.”

Brandt is a cancer survivor and also beat polio during World War II.

Though she didn’t grow up in Maeystown, her husband was from there and she “married into the town,” as she puts it.

A wealth of knowledge on the history of the town, Brandt staffs Maeystown’s Old Rock Mill Museum and serves as president of the Maeystown Preservation Society.

“I was just re-elected for another two-year term,” she said. “History was one of my favorite subjects in school.”

She said locals often come to her as a source of Monroe County history and will even call her at home.

Looking at her calendar for the remainder of the month, Brandt has plans for every single day, volunteering at various locations all over Monroe County.

This weekend, Brandt will be working the Spring Art Show in Maeystown. Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., artwork will be on display inside the Rock Mill Museum and the Corner George Inn.

“I’m a busy lady,” she said. “As long as I stay healthy, I’ll keep doing as much as I can.”


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