Dorthyle Nicholl Headrick
1932 – 2020
Dorthyle Jane Nicholl Headrick died on October 1, 2020. A native Texan, she was born January 11, 1932, in Amarillo, Texas, to Dorthy Amanda “Billie” Gardner Nicholl and Herbert Leroy Nicholl. (The unusual spelling of her name was a combination of her mother’s first name and her father’s middle name.) The family also lived in San Antonio, Lufkin, and Beaumont, Texas, before moving on VJ Day (August 15, 1945), to Houston, where she lived the rest of her life.
Dorthyle graduated from San Jacinto High School in 1950 and from the Rice Institute, with a BA in English, in 1954. A member of Christ Church Cathedral since 1947, she served in various leadership roles and was a devoted member of the Altar Guild for nearly 60 years. She loved reading and was an enthusiastic participant in the Cathedral’s book club, St. Theresa’s, often leading the group in robust discussions.
After graduating from college, Dorthyle worked with antiques at Detering Gallery and continued to be involved with her alma mater, where she volunteered for many years with Rice Alumni and the Shepherd School of Music. An accomplished classical pianist, she and her sister Ann performed recitals as children to entertain their parents’ friends, and she later accompanied her own children and others for high-school music competitions. She and husband Charles enjoyed an active social life with their close circle of Rice friends who remained in the Houston area.
Nicknamed “Electricity” by her father, Dorthyle never could sit still. She was known for her boundless energy and loved singing and dancing, performing with the PALS in musical theater productions at Rice and, in her 40s, taking up ballet lessons with Suzanne Semans Studio, where she formed another group of close-knit friends. Her cheerfulness and sense of fun was infectious. Sometimes she would amuse her children by spontaneously dancing around the house or in grocery-store aisles, when no one else was looking. She continued to stay physically fit well into her 80s, walking regularly and practicing yoga.
More than anything, Dorthyle loved nature, a lifelong passion that began when her father took her on treks through the Piney Woods of East Texas as a small child. She had a keen interest in bird watching and a vast knowledge of plants and animals of Texas. That knowledge led to a part-time job at Chickadee Nature Store and to volunteering as an Audubon docent at Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary, a role she treasured for more than 20 years, which allowed her to share her love of wildlife with visiting children. She also loved gardening. Ahead of her time, she began growing organic vegetables in the early ‘70s and, in more recent years, she cultivated butterfly- and hummingbird-attracting plants in what she called her “wild” backyard garden. As part of the “Wildflower Girls,” she and her friends enjoyed taking day trips to see the many wildflowers of Texas.
Adored by all who knew her, Dorthyle will be greatly missed by her family and friends, who will remember her as a woman of exceptional empathy, kindness, and humility, who valued simplicity and found beauty in everything. With a core of strength instilled by her faith in God, she also possessed the will and discipline to overcome many adversities throughout her life. She is preceded in death by her beloved husband of 59 years, Charles Bishop Headrick, MD; her parents; sister Ann Nicholl Chadwick; and sister-in-law Mary Martha Clements. She is survived by son Charles Nicholl Headrick, MD (Michelle); son Gardner Bishop Headrick (Sharon); daughter Faith Ann Headrick White; daughter Mary Amanda Headrick; daughter-in-law Jackie Allen; grandchildren Travis (Monica), Kaitlin (Joey), Cristina, Kyle, and Kevin; great grandchildren Liam, Olivia, and Colton; and many cousins, nephews, and nieces.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to Christ Church Cathedral Endowment Fund, Houston Audubon, or the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. A memorial service at Christ Church Cathedral will be announced in 2021.