Written by Darryl Woodson
DOREEN (BELLABY PRITTS) WILLA of Lexington known for her joyful outlook, strength, love, intelligence, resilience, and British wit and humour in the face of numerous adversities, died peacefully in her sleep at home on June 27, 2014, at age 84.
She loved to play bridge and golf, became a great cook, found British TV irresistible and was a voracious reader and an accomplished seamstress of her daughters’ costumes, school clothes and wedding dresses. She was always proud of her English heritage but also of her naturalized U.S. citizenship. She was resolute in her beliefs and had an amazing ability to manage cantankerous people.
Born Feb. 22, 1930, in Nottingham, England, to Thomas “Les” and Annie “Nancy” Bellaby, as a child she survived both her father’s accidental death and the WWII bombings that destroyed neighbors’ homes. During the Korean War she married Victor Wayne “Pug” Pritts, an England-based U.S. Air Force communications officer and, eight months pregnant, moved to his hometown of Oakland, Md., where she and her in-laws struggled with their Appalachian and her British accents.
Widowed by her young husband’s 1967 fatal heart attack, she was left to raise their four children, ages 5 to 12. Three years later she married Frank Alex Willa, moved to Chadds Ford, Pa., and had another daughter. Retired in 1990, Doreen and Frank moved to a 1700s farmhouse on nine acres in the Shenandoah Valley near Lexington with a view of the mountains and lots of room for vegetable and flowers gardens, dogs, cats and even a few head of cattle. Following Frank’s severe stroke in 1996, she became his full-time caregiver until in 2000 she was widowed again at the age of 70. She insisted on remaining in the farmhouse and did so with increasing support from her children.
She is survived by her brothers John Bellaby (Pamela) of Dunoon, Argyle, Scotland and Michael Lamont (Adela) of Richmond; children Theresa Anne Cassling (Edward) of Newark Valley, N.Y., Sandra Lee Pritts of Staunton, Brenda Lynn Doyle of Lexington, Michael Eric Pritts of Troutvile and Nancy Willa Dayton (Mark) of Catonsville, Md.; grandchildren Sara Kate Doyle, Max and Melanie Pritts and Alec Dayton Willa; sisters-in-law Susan Fulk, Linda Grabarek (Paul) and Barbara Pritts; a large step-family; a host of nieces, nephews and friends; and probably some British cousins we don’t know about.
Interment is Sunday, July 13, at 2 p.m. at Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, 314 with reception to follow at the Piovano Building. (formerly the rescue squad).
Memorial contributions may be made to Alzheimer’s Association, Central & Western Virginia Chapter, 1160 Pepsi Place, Charlottesville, VA 22901 (or go to www.alz.org)