How does one begin to explain a person’s life in a summary of words, let alone the life of someone as colorful and flamboyant as Dee Levens? It doesn’t seem that anything less than a made for TV miniseries would ever chronicle her life fairly. Dee’s life had all the essential elements of a Greek tragedy full of passion, intense love, suspense, treachery, deceit, national news attention, power struggles and a great Trolley War that made the Civil War look like a cake walk.
The epic tale began in the autumn of 1939 on the second of October. A baby girl named Delores Margaret Titus was born to humble beginnings in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She lived a difficult early life full of heartache and pain as most heroines do but she found herself to be a strong and independent woman ready to face a new life. Her quest landed her in Galena in 1958 where she was a beautician at Hoppy’s Barbershop on Main Street. She lived at the Gill Hotel where she caught the attention of Dan in a hallway. In September of 1960 they wed and that union led Dee to find her true calling. In 1961 she took on her most important and favorite role. That role was of a mother with the Birth of Kelly and then Robin, Kerry, Randy and Jayme followed. In her own pen she wrote this about her beloved sons:
My Five Sons
My five sons are my greatest treasure.
All are warm loving and giving.
They are my flowers that bloom.
Each year older they are, the more “beautiful they become.”
And maybe one day they’ll say that their caretaker of the garden did well.
Dee fiercely loved her children with all of her heart. Everything she did in her life was because of and for them. Never was a mother more proud of her children than she. Her children too loved their mother with all that they had. Their mutual love for one another has never been doubted. She loved them with unconditional love and that adoration never faltered. Her love grew even more with the birth of her grandchildren. She loved each and every one of them as if they were her own children.
All heroines need a confidant, a friend or wise counsel on their journey. Dee had many amazing and wonderful friends on the path, Jayson, Sherri, Birdie, Phyllis, Val, Noreen, Jenny, Wanda, Mary, Luella, Vern, Sue, Harold, Maryann, Marnie, Larian, Jim, Mike, and so many more that touched her heart, too many to count. But her most beloved friend was Doris Glick. For the last 52 years despite what naysayers and doubters might suggest they have been connected at the heart. Through weddings, births, life and loss nobody loved Dee more than Doris and nobody loved Doris more than Dee. It is a beautiful and remarkable gift to see such love shared between two people who were there for each other during times of joy and sorrow. They both know the meaning of true friendship, and that is, when people know all about you, and still like you anyway.
Dee was the epitome of an entrepreneur. She was a risk taker and crazy like a fox. Whether it was being a Boy Scout leader, a dispatcher or starting a taxi business she was a shrewd business woman who at times could be described as opinionated, passionate, assertive, cunning and well, always right. She will best be known for the legacy she left the city of Galena. She was known as the Trolley Lady. Dee started a shuttle service in 1980 and turned it into a thriving business known as Galena Trolley Tours. This business was an extension of who she was. In 1993 she built the current location with a theater included because she so loved the musical and performing arts. She brought history into the streets and made it fun for people to learn. She grew her business from nothing into something that has become a permanent fixture when people think about Galena.
She battled with the city for 17 years and made a huge impact on the tourism community. She fought for her business like a mother bear protecting her cub. She single handedly struck down unfair ordinances and changed the way business in Galena was conducted. Contrary to what some may think she did this because she so loved the city of Galena. She unsuccessfully ran for office in hopes to become the first female mayor of Galena. She was a self made, self propelled larger than life force to be reckoned with. You never wanted to be on her bad side. But she had the biggest and most forgiving heart of anyone. She never wanted but the absolute best for people whether they liked her opinion or not. There were no grey areas with Dee and she believed that nothing could heal anger but compassion.
Dee was intensely spiritual and believed in her guide Guda, Catholicism, spirituality, and beyond anything she believed in the power of love to transform all things. Her appreciation of the arts, and different cultures filled her home and jewelry boxes. She had a unique and elegant style and when she walked into a room people turned their heads. Her amber green eyes lit up rooms, but it was her smile that endeared you to her immediately.
Our greatest fear is that when we die we will become nothing. Dee was like fireworks in a dark sky. She was anything but subtle. Her mark on her family, friends and the city of Galena is indelible. Cancer was the one foe she could not defeat. Delores Margaret Titus Levens was born an ordinary person who grew up under extraordinary circumstances, and who, despite the odds being stacked against her, prevailed in the end. She was the kind of person we all secretly wish we could be.
They say that the massive stars that exploded more than 5 billion years ago are the source of oxygen atoms that we are breathing in right now. Some 5 billion years later from now I’m sure a star will still twinkle in the sky for Dee Levens. She is a hero because her life taught us to understand that we cannot be destroyed. When we understand that, we are freed from the fear of death. She is still here. She is around us, within us and smiling at us. We celebrate your life today Dee and your happy continuation without end, where your spirit will shine down upon all of us.