ROYAL CITY — Patrick and Dorothy Lee are this year’s Grand Marshals of the SummerFest Parade.
The Lees, who moved to Royal City more than five decades ago, were the unanimous selection of the SummerFest Committee. The two arehighly esteemed for their strong record of community volunteerism.
Patrick, a U.S. Army veteran, was the beneficiary of a 132-acre land unit by way of a government lottery. The one stipulation required to the land: he had to improve it.
Patrick and Dorothy married in 1961, and shortly after left Atchison, Kansas and embarked on their 1660-mile journey west in a 1950 Chevrolet pickup with farm equipment in tow.
The two shared the driving duties through the dusty plains and mountain ranges that Dorothy said, “took so long” as they had mechanic problems along the way. When they finally arrived at the “piece of wild land” on Road M, just a bit north of Highway 26, Dorothy was not impressed with what she saw.
“There was nothing but sagebrush, jackrabbits and rattlesnakes,” she said. “If I had the money we spent on the wedding and moving, I would’ve have gone back to Kansas.”
But she eventually grew to appreciate the homestead and is delighted with way things turned out.
“I love this country,” Dorothy said. “I know the Lord meant for us to come out here.”
The Lees came west well-grounded in their Catholic faith. They became active immediately at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Royal City. Patrick taught catechism for children and has been a church board member.
He farmed and Dorothy drove a school bus. Today she often runs into adults who were student passengers on the Big Yellow.
Patrick was first to volunteer time to community service. He started helping out at the Royal City Food Bank 20 years ago. Dorothy followed suit about 12 years ago. She is now the director of the Food Bank. It keeps her busy all week. She oversees operations, does the bookkeeping and is there to receive incoming food and often drives to pick up food donations.
Patrick is now one of her volunteers, but he doesn’t work every day.
“I bring him to the food bank to get him out of the house,” Dorothy said.
Patrick’s health has declined in recent years. He recently went through an episode which Dorothy fears may keep him out of the parade.
“After a fall that knocked him completely out, he was transported by ambulance to the hospital,” Dorothy said. “After treatment and some observation, he was released.”
Dorothy is now taking him to do rehab.
The Lees raised 10 children and have 23 grandchildren. Their daughter Rosie came across an old Studebaker pickup for them to ride in the parade.
The SummerFest Grand Parade will start at 10 a.m. The lead parade units will also include the 2017 Distinguished Young Woman Court of DYW Denisse Arroyo, First Runner-up Leslie Moreno and Second Runner-up Yajaira Michel.