Dorothy Mulligan, 97, of Falls Church, died on July 6, 2022, after a long, productive, and happy life. Born on a farm near Topeka, Kansas on Valentine’s Day in 1925, she was the third of four children born to the late Faith Hamaker Cochran and Charles Vernon Cochran. Dorothy is survived by her devoted husband of nearly 70 years, Eugene Worth Mulligan; children Greg Mulligan (Jeanne) of Baltimore, Maryland; Laura Mulligan Thomas (Paul) of Charlottesville, Virginia; Mark Mulligan (Arend) of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Cathy Mulligan Young (Sunder) of Kea’au, Hawaii; grandchildren Eric Mulligan, Stephen Mulligan, Emily Waters (Cetch), Leo Thomas, Alden Young, and Elizabeth Young; one great grandson, Roman Waters; brother-in-law Robert Mulligan; sisters-in-law Joan Weber and Eileen Mulligan; a host of nieces and nephews, and many devoted friends. She was predeceased by her sisters Ruth Seiberling (George) and Ethel Quant (Bob), and brother George Cochran.
After graduating with a degree in journalism from Kansas State and serving two years as a newspaper reporter and editor in Manhattan, Kansas, Dorothy moved to Washington, D.C. to work for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. She met her future husband, young naval officer Gene Mulligan, through mutual friends. Gene and Dorothy wed in the Naval Chapel in Washington, D.C. on September 13, 1952.
Dorothy was a dedicated Navy wife, traveling to various ports in Europe to meet her husband’s ship. Dorothy and Gene lived in Annapolis and Norfolk before moving to their home of 60 years in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1959. They traveled widely and hosted several family cruises to celebrate their major wedding anniversaries. Gene and Dorothy’s shared progressive political and spiritual ideals created a deep, unshakable bond between them.
A highly skilled editor and writer, Dorothy loved words: books, periodicals, word puzzles, jokes, and board games, especially Scrabble. The booklet she created decades ago, “Editing Yourself,” is still being used today for submissions to the national School Administrator magazine, published by The School Superintendents Association.
Dorothy was a staunch supporter of public education, specifically the Alexandria Public Schools. She volunteered in multiple capacities throughout her children’s school years, including room mother, PTA President, creator and editor of “Mac’s Facts,” MacArthur Elementary School’s parent newsletter, as well as other school newsletters. She tutored students with learning disabilities at the Kingsbury Center, worked for the National School Volunteer Program, and later was employed by Applied Management Sciences. For many years, she served as Information Specialist for the Alexandria Public Schools, then worked as a writer and editor for the American Association of School Administrators. As a devoted member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, she wrote the weekly newsletter and annual report for many years.
Dorothy fostered her children’s love of music by encouraging daily practice, shuttling them back and forth to weekly lessons, and enthusiastically attending every recital and concert. She read volumes of childrearing books and became a resource of wisdom for many neighborhood parents. She instilled a strong work ethic in her children in many ways, including sharing a newspaper route for years. Neighborhood children gathered to hear Dorothy read children’s books on the back porch in the summer. She showered her six grandchildren with unconditional love, attention, metro rides, museum visits, jokes, and imaginative treasure hunts. The Mulligan String Quartet, composed of the four Mulligan siblings, was one of her greatest sources of pride. To celebrate her 90th birthday and that of her husband Gene, grandchildren joined the ensemble to perform the Mendelssohn Octet.
Dorothy was well-loved and widely respected for her optimism, idealism, and sustained commitment while working towards the goals of exemplary public schools and social justice. She was compassionate, funny, vivacious, curious, loving, and deeply supportive of her family and of others. She was very kind to everyone and chose to see the bright side of any situation, but she could be tough when necessary. Throughout her life, Dorothy was a true ally to her family, her friends, and to the marginalized and less fortunate.
Among her many interests and talents were gardening, sewing, quilting, family history, and photography. Dorothy herself wrote in a memoir that she did not wish her obituary to read that she had “passed;” rather that she enjoyed life tremendously and hoped that her happiness gene would be inherited by her progeny.
The family would like to thank the staff members of the Goodwin House Health Care Center for their care in Dorothy’s last months of life.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, August 13 at 1 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington. Donations in Dorothy’s memory may be sent to the UUCA at 4444 Arlington Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22204.