Dolores (Lori) M. Brackenbury

ESCANABA — Dolores (Lori) M. Brackenbury, 87, of Escanaba, passed away on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, at her home.

She was born on Oct. 14, 1932 in Newberry, Mich., daughter of George and Beatrice (Pond) Frazier. Growing up in Naubinway, on the shore of Lake Michigan, Lori enjoyed playing sports including swimming, baseball and horseback riding.  She attended a one-room schoolhouse in Naubinway before continuing school in Engadine.  While in high school, she worked evenings and weekends at Beaudoin’s Cafe in Naubinway.  She graduated second in her class from Engadine High School.  Following high school, she served in the U.S. Army, which she enjoyed very much.  Then she attended Michigan State University on the G.I Bill and received a bachelor of arts in chemistry.

Lori found it somewhat challenging to get a job as a chemist.  Potential employers would be upfront about why they don’t hire women.  She managed to get a job at a hospital lab, north of Detroit.  Even though she was paid well, she was unhappy working there. 

Fortunately, her dad had a friend who was a doctor from Lansing.  With his help, Lori got a job working for the Michigan Health Department in Lansing.  This turned out to be a job that she was well suited for and that she was very proud of.  Being very detail oriented, she made few mistakes in her lab work.  She attributed her success to meticulously cleaning lab equipment to prevent cross contamination, specifically, using trisodium phosphate to clean the test tubes. This was not required practice in the lab. Contamination was a problem, but not with her tests. (Even now, worldwide, cross contamination is a major contributor to having false positives, such as PCR tests that incorrectly show COVID-19 in ocean water.)

Lori married Donald Brackenbury on Oct. 21, 1961.  Lori, with Don’s help, built the Health Department’s first electrophoresis machine.  Lori and Don had two children, and, while working in Lansing, bought land on the Looking Glass River in DeWitt.  With the help of an architect, they built a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired house on the side of a hill, clad in redwood and Indiana limestone.  At about this point, Lori stopped working as a chemist, to be a stay at home mom. 

In 1969, Lori and Don moved to Escanaba for Don’s job as a state geologist. Always an avid reader, and now hundreds of miles from a quality lab, Lori took up volunteerism in addition to gardening, cooking, sewing, painting and bird watching. She was a Cub Scout den mother, a member of the Parent Teacher Organization, taught Sunday school, and worked with the tribal elders of the Sault Tribe. In 1976, her quilt won grand champion at the UP State Fair.  In 1987, she was awarded the Michigan 150 First Lady Award by the governor on the celebration of Michigan’s sesquicentennial year.  She very much enjoyed public radio, cooking shows with Julia Child and PBS Masterpiece.  Don preceded her in death on Nov. 20, 2015.

Survivors include her sons, Michael Brackenbury of Escanaba and Timothy (Beverly) Brackenbury of Waupaca, Wis.; grandchild, Allen (Kailyn) Kemp of Arvada, Colo.; and siblings, Barbara Davis of East Lansing, Sarah (David) Walsh of Naubinway, Peter (Betty) Frazier of Traverse City, and Walter Frazier of Naubinway.

She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Donald; and eight siblings.

Burial will take place in the Naubinway Cemetery. 

A message of condolence may be directed to the family at crawfordfuneralhomes.net.