She started in Liberia missions, then worked her way over a decade to the top of Open Cities Health Care in St. Paul.
Dorii Gbolo dedicated her life to improving the physical and spiritual health of the poor in St. Paul and Liberia.
After beginning her career in the mission field, Gbolo earned two college degrees and worked her way up to chief operating officer of the Open Cities Health Center in St. Paul. She died from cancer June 30, her 56th birthday.
"Dorii dedicated her life to serving patients and strengthening health care in our community. Her work has made a positive impact in the lives of so many Minnesotans," said U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., in a news statement. McCollum spoke in April at "Dorii Appreciation Day," held at Open Cities Health Center.
Gbolo was born Dorii Lucas and raised in Danville, Ill. In 1974, her family moved to St. Paul. Both her mother and grandmother were nurses and active in their church.
"I was influenced by my mother and grandmother. I saw the work they performed for patients and the community, and I wanted to do the same," Gbolo told the Star Tribune in 2006.
When she was about 20, Dorii Lucas flew to the Todee district of Liberia where she began her career managing a health clinic and boarding school at the Killingsworth Mission. She met and married Bill Gbolo, a native missionary. He said they stayed about eight years and started a family that grew to 11 children after they moved to St. Paul.
"She was always interested in mission work," said her sister, Bettye Granger, of Minneapolis. Even as a young girl, Dorii was driven. "Anything she set her mind to, she could make it happen," Granger said. "She was always about reaching out and helping people."
After Gbolo and her young family returned to St. Paul, she earned a nursing degree at St. Catherine University, said her husband. She began working as a nurse for what was then the Model Cities Health Center in St. Paul. She became clinic programs director in 1998 and was named chief executive in 2006, after returning from a year as the women's health grant coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Health.
She earned a master's in transcultural nursing from Augsburg College in 2008. She developed cancer in 2009, received treatment, and kept working until early this year.
An elder at River of Life Christian Center in St. Paul, she "gave all her working life to her community," Bill Gbolo said. "She worked hard to open up health care to provide free care for the unfortunate."
She also loved family, cooking and good food, Granger said. She said the Gbolos worked opposite day and night shifts so one parent could be with their kids. At other times Granger or other relatives watched them.
"Family was very big for her. We'd have taco weekend or cookout weekend," Granger said. She recalled the time she and her sister loaded a family van with her four kids and Gbolo's 11 children and headed to the State Fair. A man watching them unload asked if the kids would ever stop coming out, she chuckled.
In addition to her husband and sister, Gbolo is survived by their 11 children: Stanley, Tiankay, Simone, Bono, Prince, Dorthy, Simeon, William, Malakie, Grace and Deiah; her father, George Lucas, of Seattle; mother Marlene Davis, of Houston, and brother Rory Lucas of Minneapolis.
Services have been held.
Jim Adams • 952-746-3283