THE FAMILY OF Dorothy L. Stell was amazed at the outpouring of expressions of love and gratitude it received after her death on May 4.
"We didn't realize how much she was loved," said her granddaughter, Synette Stell. "The outpouring of letters and phone calls from people she had affected and prayed for was amazing. Most of them we didn't even know."
Dorothy Stell, a native Texan who brought to her adopted city of Philadelphia a passion for serving her God and people in need, died of renal failure at the age of 78. She lived in Mount Airy.
"She was very focused on the work of the Lord," Synette said. "She was truly a nurturer."
Dorothy had different ways of serving her faith. For years, she put out a monthly "Good News Letter: The Truth of God Revealed."
She drew on her vast knowledge of the Gospel to try to clarify scripture, as well as offer inspirational messages for people hungry for spiritual direction.
But much of her service was on a personal level, one-on-one with people who needed her prayers and guidance.
"People would call her at 2 and 3 in the morning with some problem," Synette said. "They called her because no one else would talk to them. And she would pray with them, encourage and guide them."
Her six grandkids also sought out grandmom for comfort and advice. They called her "Mano," a name given her by one of the children who had trouble saying "Grandmom."
"She was an amazing grandmother," Synette said. "She was always very much there for the family."
Dorothy was born in Ennis, Texas, to William Taylor Stell and Nellie Gower Stell. She came to Philadelphia 43 years ago and began her decades-long involvement with Baptist churches.
Her last membership was in Golden Gate Baptist Church, Morris Street at Queen Lane, Germantown.
She devoted her life to spreading the gospel, and studied the scriptures diligently to help her in her evangelism.
Her life was also an affirmation of the Christian principle of turning the other cheek. "If someone treated her bad, she would respond with kindness and love," her granddaughter said.
Dorothy was a fashionable dresser who didn't leave the house without proper attire, including a stylish hat.
"She really knew how to dress," her granddaughter said. "She was immaculate all the time."
And she had the energy of a much younger woman.
"We would go to New York, and she would outwalk everybody," Synette said. "She had the energy and spirit of a woman much younger.
"She was so young at heart."
It was a surprise to the family when it became clear that she was ill. She had never let on that she was feeling sick.
She was taken to a hospital in Philadelphia, but insisted on being discharged.
The family took her to the Washington area to be with family in her final days.
"The week of taking care of her was a beautiful spiritual experience - to see how much at peace she was," her granddaughter said. "We watched how she communicated with God and what peace it gave her. She was ready to go home to be with the Lord."
She also is survived by a son, Jackie Stell; a daughter, Jacqueline Wood; a brother, William A. Stell; four sisters, Thelma McKinnon, Imogene Moreland, Maizie Orr and Dorothea Stell; and five other grandchildren.