Dorothy Elizabeth Tucker is not your average 94-year-old.
Every week, there’s two-hour dance rehearsals: Thursday with Elders Ensemble of Prometheus Dance, Friday with Back Porch Dance Company and the Back Pocket Dancers, and Saturday with Round the Corner Movers.
An active member of the Zonta Club of Medford and Zonta International, Tucker was the first African-American governor for New England and up to Nova Scotia, from 1982 to 1984.
Much as she likes dancing, “My mission has always been Zonta, which is about improving the lives of women,” she said.
Working with children led her to dance. While completing her undergraduate studies at Boston University and Tufts, it was Abigail Eliot — a pioneer in early childhood education and the founder of the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School at Tufts — who “took me under her wing,” Tucker said.
Working at her first job at the Cambridge Community Center, “I saw I was reaching children with difficulties,” she said. Tucker became the educational supervisor and developed the Community Clinical Nursery School Program for the mentally challenged, which became state law in 1966.
Since 2008, she’s also served on the board of Directors at Mystic Valley Elder Services.
“Most [elders] do not need to be in institutions if they can get services like Meals on Wheels, help with bathing, have someone to talk to or take a walk with [for safety], or help with gardening,” she said. “They can live a long time at home.”
Tucker herself enjoys senior centers.
“I get a walk, a hug, and a meal. That’s my message to elders: Get outdoors,” she said. “Even if it’s on the porch. You need a change of air. Take a walk. Have a routine that gets you changing positions.”
A Winchester native, she has called West Medford home for almost 60 years.
Recognized as a Massachusetts Unsung Heroine in 2013, she was named one of three Women Making A Difference by the Zonta Club of Malden in March.
“Dorothy’s my inspiration,” said Joanne Puopolo, president of Malden’s Zonta. “She’s a true embodiment of a community leader. She’s always saying, ‘If you see me doing it, you better be out here.’”
Dorothy Tucker is not done. “Living in the ‘now’ is something I’m just learning,” Tucker said. “You do your best. You may smile and make someone’s day. And you’ll never know.”
Kathy Shiels Tully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.