Melanie J. Dodenhoff, 79, of East Freetown, passed away peacefully on Saturday, January 29th. Melanie was a quiet and humble woman who loved her hometown of Freetown, Massachusetts. She was born on May 3, 1942, the daughter of Benjamin DeWitt Thomas and Helen Gurney Thomas. While she lived in Franklin, MA, practically every weekend and every summer Melanie would come to Freetown to visit with her grandparents Warren and May Gurney. She considered the time she spent in Freetown to be the happiest of her times. Melanie graduated from Franklin High School in 1959.
Melanie did well in her studies and was accepted to Colby College in Maine. She learned a number of languages in preparation for a career as a translator at the United Nations. Maine had a special place in Melanie’s heart. Eventually Melanie realized that she wanted to enter a career that more directly helped other people. For that reason, she enrolled in the Sturdy Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Attleboro, Massachusetts. After graduating from nursing school in 1965, Melanie was employed in a number of different nursing positions. She worked in Maine as a summer camp nurse at Camp Androscoggin, in Vermont in a rural hospital emergency room, and in Adams, Massachusetts as a community nurse involved in early interventions for children with developmental disabilities. Melanie’s three children, Bethany, Kieran, and Challis were born in the Berkshires.
Melanie and her young family eventually returned to Freetown permanently. She worked at Taunton State Hospital and later at Paul Dever State School where she met her beloved husband, Eric. Melanie continued to work as a Registered Nurse throughout her years in many different settings in Southeastern Massachusetts.
Melanie had always been interested in her family’s genealogy as well as how her family contributed to Freetown’s history. Mid-life, she became an avid volunteer at the Freetown Historical Society. Her extensive knowledge of Freetown’s history and her organizing ability led to her being hired as the museum’s curator. Through this work, Melanie helped to introduce computerized cataloging and volunteer management. She also networked extensively with other local historical societies to share ideas to improve museum operations. For the work Melanie did while she was curator of the Freetown Historical Society Museum, she was named the New Bedford Standard Times Woman of the Year for 1995.
During all this time Melanie was also busy managing a home, making quilts, knitting anything and everything, tending to her many animals, and growing vegetables and flowers in her gardens. Melanie spent her entire life cheering on the Red Sox and was Ted Williams’ biggest fan. There wasn’t a day that went by that Melanie didn’t share the latest happenings about the team she loved. She was also very active in the Freetown Lions Club with her husband Eric.
One of the roles Melanie was most proud of in her life was that of being a Grandma. She did babysitting for most of her grandchildren a number of days a week for many years.
Melanie was a great daughter, mother, wife, grandmother, and nurse. She is survived by her husband Eric, her daughters Bethany (O’Neill) Villafranca, and Challis (O’Neill) Crema, her son Kieran O’Neill, her granddaughters Elena Villafranca and Molly Crema, and her grandsons Connor and Thomas Villafranca. A celebration of her life will be held on Friday, February 4th at 9:30 am at Saint John Neumann Church in East Freetown, followed by a funeral at the National Cemetery in Bourne at 12:30. Both friends and family are welcome.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Melanie J (Thomas) Dodenhoff, please visit our floral store.