At 81, Dorothy Shannon isn't ready to stop baking quite yet
Dorothy Shannon is baking, so people are tasting and buying.
Shannon, 81, is a resident of Avera Brady Health and Rehab in Mitchell. For the past two weeks, she has been baking cookies and treats that will be sold Friday at Avera Brady Assisted Living, 1414 W. Cedar Ave.
The bake and crafts sale is from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and all are welcome. Shannon's expertly crafted cookies will sell for 50 cents each.
Dozens of her baked goods have been packed away in preparation for the sale. If they weren't, they might be gone by now.
The Avera Brady residents, staff and guests have learned how tasty Shannon's cookies and candy are, so they snap them up for a snack at every opportunity.
That makes Shannon, who said she has always enjoyed baking goodies for others more than eating them herself, very happy.
"I really do love it," she said Monday afternoon as another fresh batch came out of the oven at Avera Brady.
She learned how to bake from her mother Henrietta, who taught her on the family farm near Rockham, a small Faulk County community about 22 miles northwest of Redfield.
Her mother baked angel food cakes, cinnamon rolls and cookies and showed her daughters how to measure, prepare and bake all those treats, Shannon said.
There were four girls and one boy in her family, Shannon said, and three of the girls learned to bake.
"I was the one who stuck with it the longest," she said.
She baked for her husband, Ronald, who is deceased, and their two children, Patrick, who lives in Mitchell, and Colleen, of Sioux Falls. Like their mother, they became nurses.
Dorothy Shannon worked as a registered nurse at Methodist Hospital in Mitchell and, after it closed, at the Firesteel Health Care Center nursing home.
She used to bring homemade cookies into the nursing home, and they were a hit with anyone who sampled them, Shannon admitted with a slight smile.
A doctor enjoyed them so much that he stopped her and offered this advice, she recalled:
"Mrs. Shannon, you should go to New York and sell these cookies. You could sell them for $1.25."
But she said that wasn't an option. "Who do I know in New York?" Shannon said.
Instead, she kept making them at home, using her heavy marble rolling pin and the matching marble board to prepare the cookies for baking. She still uses them at her new home, where she has lived for more than six months.
Shannon is a precise baker, said Lisa Larson, an Avera Brady activities assistant.
She insists on exact measurements and the same brand of ingredients that she has always used, Larson said.
"I have learned so much from Dorothy," she said. "I just like hanging out with Dorothy. She's like a second mom to me."
Shannon said she depends on Larson for help.
"She's my right arm," she said.
On Monday, as they cooked massive farmhouse sugar cookies, they were surrounded by residents and Larson's sons, who enjoyed a cookie or two while adding to the friendly environment.
"Our enjoyment is watching everybody else," Larson said. "This is her therapy."
Shannon said she will bake as long as she is capable. She said she hasn't set a date or an age when she will stop.
"Oh, I don't think so," she said.
Shannon said she likes all her cookies and candy, but on her birthday she has planned to bake a spice chiffon cake.
"This is what we do here," said Avera Brady Administrator Veronnica Smith.
"People wonder what it's like in a nursing home. We want you to do what you used to do."
Shannon has been busy making the sugar cookies as well as chocolate chip cookies, butterhorn rolls, toffee and peanut butter balls.
Shannon calls her style "down-to-earth baking," but the people who sample them have a different term: delicious.
Avera Brady activities assistant Lisa Larson and resident Dorothy Shannon tell stories about how popular Shannon's baked goods are at the Avera Brady Health and Rehab kitchen Monday afternoon in Mitchell. Shannon has been making baked goods for a Friday sale at Avera Brady Assisted Living.