Doris Basham, who lived in the D.C. area since 1964, died peacefully on Saturday, October 23, 2021 after a night in hospice care. Many of her family members, from as near as Arlington and as far as New York, Tampa and Seattle, gathered around her on her final day. She was 95.
She was born Ethel Doris Danker in Bronx, New York, in 1926. After high school, she married Ray Scott Basham, a 1945 West Point graduate. The newlyweds were sent to Clark Field in the Philippines, where Lt. Basham served as a pilot and where their first child was born in 1948.
Upon returning state side, the young couple lived the military life in Ft. Walton Beach, FL. near Naval Air Station Pensacola; Fairborn, OH. near Wright-Patterson AFB; and Champaign, IL, twice where then-Capt. Basham earned his MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering.
Dee, as she preferred to be called, started the Papoose Scouts for boys, like her own, who were too young for the Cub Scouts. Adept at sewing and knitting, she crafted little suits and, later, hardy sweaters for the five boys she raised.
After their second Champaign stint, the family moved to the US Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs. Major Basham taught Electrical Engineering to the cadets and Dee ran the family home. The couple joined the Academy’s theater company where Dee, in a blonde wig and a tight dress, played leading lady Billie Dawn on stage in Born Yesterday.
Ray and Dee also designed and built an early RV in a decommissioned yellow school bus. Ray did the conversion while Dee sewed curtains, cushion covers and designed the purple interior. The family took the bus on an epic road trip to the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, with stops in Yellowstone and an excursion to see Dee’s sister Mona in Burbank, CA. The next summer, they drove south into Mexico, crossing the border at El Paso and going as far south as Acapulco.
Ray’s final Air Force assignment was the Pentagon. The family lived in Arlington, VA., for a few years, then settled in Silver Spring, where Dee embarked on a successful career as a real estate agent. Her brother George bought a steakhouse on E Street and she pitched in to help run it, playing Bad Cop to his Good Cop. She also ran her own breakfast and lunch spot in Bethesda.
After raising all boys, Dee was delighted that her 17 grandchildren included both girls and boys. She loved to take them on adventures when they were young. These outings were known as Dee Days and are still fondly remembered. Many came to her bedside, in person or virtually.
Throughout her life, Dee not only helped her own family but also many others. Anyone in her sphere of influence was considered fair game. Her sister often described her to friends as the “Auntie Mame” of the family.
In her later years, no one could keep up with her as she raced around D.C. on her motorized scooter. She had a stylish hat for every occasion and rarely left her building without one. She loved to check out new restaurants and tried never to miss a Nats game with her granddaughter.
On her final day, she opened her eyes and, though she was not able to speak, smiled and nodded as her loved ones stood bedside to thank her, acknowledge her and express love for her.
Her funeral will be held on at 10 a.m. Tuesday, November 9 at Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home, 1500 W. Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA 22302, with burial to follow at nearby Ivy Hill Cemetery, 2823 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302.
During her last years, she was an avid member of the Georgetown Senior Center to which donations can be made in lieu of flowers by sending checks payable to the Center, ℅: Wendy Erlanger, 2918 Olive Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20007.
The Georgetown Senior Center is a 501(c)3 organization. Your donation is tax deductible.
Tax ID: 52-1253307
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