Orelia Sparrow Dann


Mrs. Orelia Sparrow Dann, 78, of Dexter, Mich., and Machipongo, died Sept. 17, 2022, after a brief illness.
Orelia was born in Bourne, Mass., the daughter of Irving Thompson Sparrow and Gloria Lindberg Sparrow. Her father, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, served for a dozen years as lighthouse keeper in Massachusetts and Maine. Orelia and her brother, Irving Thompson Sparrow Jr., spent their early years living on lighthouses and on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. She is descended from a long line of watermen on both sides of her family; her father’s side fished and oyster farmed on the Chesapeake Bay and her mother’s side included sailors, boat-builders, whalers, fishermen, and summer boarding housekeepers from Cape Cod. At a young age, after nearly drowning off Cape Neddick (Nubble) Light, she was sent to live for a year with her grandparents on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. There, perhaps appropriately as a Sparrow, she attended the Birdsnest School.
Orelia graduated from Princess Anne High School and Radford College. She then earned a M.A. degree in history at the College of William and Mary, where she met and married her husband, John C. Dann. She taught at Williamsburg public schools for five years and then at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, Mich., for 44 years before retiring in 2017. She enjoyed creating beautiful spaces to live in with antiques and art, first at Gordon Hall and later at the 19th century house in Dexter she and John often shared with family and friends.
She was a gifted teacher and lifelong learner who championed professional development in teaching and created new courses in art and architecture, Asian studies, and global history. Orelia was a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, an honorary teaching sorority, P.E.O. International, the Monday Club of Ann Arbor, and a book group with former Greenhills teachers. She received multiple awards and held numerous leadership roles in teaching and independent schools over her career. In recent years, she wrote a personal history of Greenhills.
She was a voracious reader, enthusiastic world traveler, and wonderful cook. She loved to swim … at her own pace. She was a member of the First Congregational Church in Ann Arbor and in Virginia, she attended the Johnson’s United Methodist Church. She visited her family house on Church Neck, Northampton County, often after retirement, where she enjoyed a spectacular view of Hungars Creek from her living room window.
She is survived by her husband, John C. Dann; her two daughters, Catharine Christie Dann Roeber (Peter) and Orelia Elizabeth Dann; her granddaughter, Elizabeth Christie Roeber; her brother, Irving T. Sparrow Jr. (Lucille); and her beloved dog, Biscuit.
Contributions in Orelia’s memory can be made to: Johnson’s United Methodist Church, 11175 Bayside Road, Machipongo, VA 23405; the Eastern Shore of Virginia Barrier Island Center, 7295 Young St., Machipongo, VA 23405; or to the Orelia Sparrow Dann Fund, established to support professional development and guest speakers within and beyond the Greenhills community. To donate, please give electronically at www.greenhillsschool.org/dann, or give by check payable to Greenhills School with the fund name specified in the memo line, and mailed to Greenhills School, Attention: Advancement Office, 850 Greenhills Dr., Ann Arbor, MI 48105.
Memorial services will be held at Johnson’s United Methodist Church Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, at 11 a.m. A memorial in Michigan will occur at a later date.

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