Father far from home

Grave miles away, memories close to heart

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For Treba Montgomery, no memories of her father are her own. She only knows what her family and friends have told her.

They have said that as a young girl, she whistled just like him, that her youngest son is his spitting image, and that her oldest son has his laugh. Montgomery once met a woman who said she remembers dancing on her father's shoes as a little girl.

But Montgomery does not even remember the day her father died. She was too young.

On April 11, 1945, Michael W. Dorr, Montgomery's father and a Steamboat Springs native, died in World War II. Montgomery had just turned 3, and the last time her father saw her, she was 9 months old.

Sixty years later, Montgomery still tears up when talking about her father and a poem she wrote about him at the age of 12.

"I miss my father," she said. "I missed not getting to know him better."

Michael Dorr, 30, was one of 24 Routt County men killed in action during War World II. He is among the more than 50 Routt County soldiers killed in action since World War I.

An Army technician, Dorr was killed in Unna, Germany, less than a month before the war ended in Europe.

On the day of his death, Dorr was on a mission to pick up what the Army thought to be German prisoners. When the troops got to their destinations, Dorr had a feeling the men they were sent for were not prisoners, Montgomery said. As the operator of a vehicle-mounted .50-caliber machine gun, Dorr fired off a round in the air and small fire was returned.

"My father returned fire until he was instantly killed," Montgomery said.

Dorr received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service. He is buried in Margraten, The Netherlands, at the World War II Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial.

Montgomery, who lives in Yampa, has never visited her father's grave. She said it is a lifelong dream, and she wants to go with her two older sisters.

"I don't feel it would be (right) to have us go without all three of us," Montgomery said.

In 1914, Dorr was born in Cow Creek, where he went to the one-room schoolhouse until high school.

Attending Steamboat Springs High School, he lettered all four years in football, met his future wife and Montgomery's mother, Bernice Ives, and graduated in 1933.

Dorr was a man who loved children, Montgomery said. It was rare for her parents to go on a date "without some little kid" tagging along, she said.

All the little girls in Routt County asked for Dorr to wait so they could marry him when they grew up, Montgomery said.

Dorr also played music with his father, Frank Elmer Dorr, and his brother. The group would play at local dances in one-room schoolhouses throughout the county. Dorr played the guitar and told his wife that before they got married she had to learn to play "Spring Time in the Rockies."

In the middle of the De----pression, Dorr enlisted in the military, Montgomery said. For much of that time, he was stationed at Fort Logan, where he guarded the gold train from Denver to San Francisco.

He left the Army in the winter of1937 and married Ives soon after. The two eventually moved back to Routt County, where Dorr worked at the ranch of Ives' father on Trout Creek.

Late in 1942, after the couple returned to Denver, Dorr was drafted.

Montgomery was just 5 months old at the time. She said that after he was drafted, Dorr saw his family one last time between basic training and going overseas.

In Europe, Dorr served with Gen. George Patton's 3rd Army.

He later served with the 9th Army, which he was serving when he died. Along with being a tank gunner, Dorr was a sharp shooter.

Although Montgomery was too young to remember her father, she has other mementos. She has the Western Union telegram that informed the family of his death. She also has his Purple Heart and Silver Star.

She has a few of the cards that a family in the Netherlands sent them. The family adopted the father's grave, and one daughter who could write in English would send the Dorrs wooden shoes filled with Dutch candies, holiday cards and letters.

Throughout the years, the families lost touch, but Montgomery said a family friend visited her father's grave recently and noted the cemetery is still well taken care of and the Dutch continue to put flowers on the graves.

"I think it is just passed on from generation to generation over time," Montgomery said. "I guess they are still so grateful."

Montgomery, her two sisters and her mother moved back to Routt County after her father died. Her mother remarried, and her stepfather, Leo Rossi, always made sure the daughters stayed in close contact with their father's family and remembered him, she said.

Montgomery lives in Yampa. Her sister Arvilla Sample lives in Yuma, Ariz., and her oldest sister, Loava Good, lives in Dolores.

For years, Montgomery said, she thought her father was the only one who died in War World II.

When Montgomery was younger, she said, the family use to go to the community Memorial Day services. Today, the tradition continues with her children.

"I still hang a flag out," she said. "It's in honor of my father more than anything else."

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