Life Story / Obituary
Dorothy Hicks Constantine, age 94, died peacefully on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. Dorothy was born on July 7, 1926, in Glendale, California to Estill and Bernice Hicks. She grew up in Hollywood, where she attended Hollywood High School and UCLA.
After graduating from college, Dorothy traveled east to explore the world, working for a year in New York City. Before returning home to the west coast, she stopped in Racine, Wisconsin to visit family friends. It was during this visit that she was introduced to her future husband, a budding attorney, Charles Constantine.
Once married and settled in Racine, Dorothy gave birth to five children within a span of six years. As the children grew, she became involved with the community, joining the Junior League, the YWCA, where she formed the first girls’ swim team, and then worked as a teacher for Head Start. Woven into all of this were numerous exchange students she welcomed into the home, hailing from Japan, Israel, Iran and Ethiopia.
Dorothy ran for and was elected Alderman of Racine’s 2nd District in the early 1970s, an office she held for 17 years. The 2nd District, situated in a beautiful part of town bordering Lake Michigan, was riddled with large pockets of poverty when Dorothy assumed office. She made it her mission to know all of her constituents and to advocate for them, particularly those whose landlords didn’t comply with building codes or who charged excessive rent. She campaigned to limit the number of bars in her district on the southside of Racine and eventually, in partnership with the SC Johnson Company (whose headquarters were in the 2nd District) helped oversee an official Southside Revitalization Project. She was a woman ahead of her time, working tirelessly to break down systemic racism without having the vocabulary to do so or the popular will behind her. Her political activism was not always appreciated, but she took pride in being dubbed “Alderman Constantpain” by her detractors.
Dorothy was a formidable tennis player, winning the North Shore Club’s women’s tennis championship year after year. Later, she took up paddle tennis and, no surprise, was always someone you wanted on your team.
She enjoyed opera, with a soft spot for Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. There was never a television set in the Constantine household, but WFMT’s Sunday afternoon opera broadcast was a fixture in the home. Later, after the kids were grown, Dorothy and a group of friends would travel by limo to Chicago to spend the day at a Lyric Opera performance. Dorothy was also an astronomy buff, able to identify dozens of constellations and nebulae; traveled extensively, to China, Spain, the Galapagos Islands, France, Egypt, Japan, Poland, Israel and anywhere her children, grandchildren or extended family might be; was addicted to Sudoku and crossword puzzles; and for many years belonged to the Under The Covers book club.
Dorothy had a large circle of friends of all ages, races, genders or socio-economic status, man to whom she provided guidance, encouragement and support. Her wicked sense of humor was legendary, on full display during dinner parties replete with wine, food and rip-roaringconversation.
She was predeceased by her husband, Charles; her daughter-in-law, Barbara; her son, Stephen; and her sister, Margaret Montgomery. Survivors include her children, Charles Constantine, Maggie Porter (Boone), John Constantine, Elizabeth Constantine (Derek), Getachew Zowde, and Bessie Meier; eight grandchildren (Erin Constantine Malman, Emily Constantine, Michael Constantine, Charles Porter, Martha Porter, Mayana Miskin, Rebecca Constantine, Max Johnson); nine great-grandchildren; and sisters, Elizabeth Granfield and Anne Siberell.
A memorial service to celebrate Dorothy’s life will be held at a later date, when it is safe for family and friends to travel.
In lieu of gifts, please consider donating to the Racine Art Museum ( https://www.ramart.org ) or the Kids First Fund at the Racine Community Foundation ( https://www.racinecommunityfoundation.org/ ).