Still Helping Our Troops

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Dorothy Gatta was only 16 years old when she began to assert herself as an independent, self-assured woman. It was at this tender age that she left home and moved to New York to dance for the Rocket’s at the Roxy Theater. After living at the local YMCA for a year, she returned home to finish her education, but she was back in New York dancing at Radio City Music Hall soon after graduating.

A now accomplished dancer, Mrs. Gatta looked for new challenges. She joined the Women’s Reserve of the United States Marine Corps when she was 21 and attained the rank of Second Lieutenant and later also achieved the rank of First Lieutenant. Although she was not permitted to fly in combat, she did fly Corseair and P38 planes from the factory to Marine and Naval bases.

During one of her first visits to the officer’s club, Mrs. Gatta received the nickname that has stuck with her-“Big Mama.” One of the officers noticed 6-foot Dorothy strutting through the door and said, “Oh brother, look at this Big Mama coming in.” Mrs. Gatta still answers to “Big Mama” today.

Dorothy met her husband, Michael, while they were both serving in the Marines. The couple moved to California and raised their two children there. After completing her military service, Mrs. Gatta returned to school to become a dietician, a position she held for 15 years.

At the age of 47, she had a stroke and was in a coma for three months. While recovering, she moved to Culpepper Gardens in Arlington, VA, an Independent and Assisted Living community founded by her daughter, where she lived for 10 years.

When she was 80, Mrs. Gatta was admitted to the hospital after a fall at home. In order to recover fully from her fall, Mrs. Gatta moved to Sleepy Hollow Manor Health and Rehabilitation Center in Annandale, VA.

According to her Physical Therapist, N. Freer, Mrs. Gatta has made an impressive recovery, “Prior to starting rehab, Ms. Gatta required a mechanical lift to get in and out of bed, had poor balance, and was unable to walk. After her course or therapy, she is now able to walk with a quad cane and get herself in and out of bed. She walks around her room with the cane without assistance and uses her scooter for mobility around the facility.”

While overcoming the challenges of rehabilitation, 82-year-old Mrs. Gatta never lost her indomitable spirit. In addition to serving coffee to her fellow residents in their rooms, she has also organized a group of 10 to 15 other residents who all work with her to make non-reflective Rosary beads for our service men and women in the Middle East.

The group has made over 2,500 Rosaries for our troops. Following a remarkable recovery, “Big Mama” is thrilled to be able to continue to help her fellow service men and women and to brighten the lives of her fellow residents with her cheerful and positive attitude.

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