Cover photo for Dorothy Rose Bell's Obituary
Dorothy Rose Bell Profile Photo
1927 Dorothy 2017

Dorothy Rose Bell

November 8, 1927 — September 22, 2017

Dorothy Rose Bell, age 89, formerly of Fairfield, passed away on September 22, 2017, at Keosauqua Health Center in Keosauqua.

Visitation for family and friends will be from 6:00 to 8:00 PM Tuesday, September 26, 2017, at Behner Funeral Home.

Funeral services will be held at 10:00 AM, Wednesday, September 27, 2017, at the First Presbyterian Church with Pastor Joseph Phipps officiating. Burial will be at Maple Hill Cemetery in Birmingham.

In keeping with Dorothy’s love of the arts, memorials may be sent to the Fairfield Concert Association, the Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts in Fairfield, the Southeast Iowa Symphony, or the Fairfield Art Association.

Dorothy was born in 1927 in Birmingham, Iowa, the daughter of Clement O. and Emma E. (Nelson) Topping. She graduated as valedictorian from Stockport High School and attended Parsons College, where she majored in English and was involved in campus and sorority activities. While at Parsons, she met returning veteran and fellow student Jay Q. Bell. Dorothy and Jay were married in 1948 after she graduated.

Dorothy and Jay then lived in Ames while Jay studied at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University. After his graduation, the couple spent two years in South Dakota and then returned to Fairfield where Jay opened his veterinary practice. Dorothy became active in the First Presbyterian Church and shared her time and talents in many roles. She was a Sunday school teacher, editor of the church newsletter, member of the wedding committee, and the Church Circle, and was a deacon. She was recognized by the Association of Presbyterian Women with an honorary life membership for her dedication.

After Jay’s death in 1982, Dorothy devoted her energies to fostering the arts in Fairfield and to creating her flower garden. She was a dedicated planner, promoter, and attendee of local and regional art exhibits, concerts, recitals, and plays. Her passion developed into long memberships in many arts organizations. Dorothy served on the Board of the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra beginning in 1965. In 1985 she was named an Honorary Life board member. In 1979, Dorothy was elected to the Board of the Fairfield Concert Association. She served for 33 years, 21 as the Board secretary. When the Fairfield Art Association was founded in 1966, Dorothy was a charter member. She served as both secretary and newsletter editor of the Association for many years. In 1988 she founded the Fairfield Garden Tour, combining her love of gardening and art to create a fundraiser for the Art Association. In 2011, the tour was renamed “The Dorothy Bell Garden Tour” in her honor.

Dorothy was named a Citizen of the Year in 1999 by the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce. She was the first recipient of the Fairfield Art Association’s Outstanding Fine Arts Promoter Award in 1994-1995 and was honored with a Maharishi Award in 2000 for enhancing the quality of individual and community life in Fairfield. In 2013, she was elected to the Parsons College Wall of Honor at the Fairfield Civic Center.

Until she moved from her home on Iowa Avenue, those who did not know Dorothy personally referred to her as the “Tulip Lady.” Dorothy planted thousands of tulip bulbs in her back yard along Fillmore Avenue, and each spring her garden would explode with color. As much as she enjoyed promoting art, she also enjoyed creating it and sharing it with others. She loved it when people said that walking or driving by her beautiful yard brought them joy. In addition to her love of the arts and gardening, Dorothy spent many happy hours sailing, attending concerts, dining out, and playing bridge.

Dorothy is survived by her sister, Charlotte Olsen, and her four children, Sue Ellen Bell, Martha Bell, David Bell, and Scott Bell, her sons-in-law, James Hulbert and Larry Allen, and daughter-in-law Mary Bell. She is also survived by two grandchildren, Kat Bell and Jay Bell, many treasured cousins and friends, and several international grandchildren through Rotary International’s student exchange program. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Jay, and her son-in-law Orvil Reeser.

This fall, plant a few tulip bulbs in your yard in her honor, because, as Dorothy often said, “it is easier to get through winter knowing what is waiting for spring under the snow”.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Behner Funeral Home & Crematory
203 S. Main
Fairfield, Iowa 52556

Funeral Service

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
10:00 AM

First Presbyterian Church
200 South Main Street
Fairfield, Iowa 52556

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Dorothy Rose Bell, please visit our flower store.


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