What's Your Word - Survivor

Marissa Southards

I had the honor of photographing Laurie in December 2016, as part of Awakenings I.  When she first chose her word, I knew immediately, it was truly one that she had not only earned, but also honored.  Having known Laurie for several years in my activist life, I also came to adore Laurie as a dear friend as well.  Coming to learn her story and the things she’s come through in her life, as a child, as a wife, as a mother, and as a woman – I’ve only come to respect her more.



Hearing about the Awakenings Project from the artist, Marissa Southards, Laura “Laurie” Dore was a participant in the Awakenings Project for the first cycle that ended in December in 2016, better known as A1. The word she chose was survivor. The story as to why she chose that word is as follows:

I survived! As a child, and very unawares, both my mother & father verbally and emotionally abused me.  I’ve learned that they did the best they could with their issues (Father with depression, Mother probably bi-polar), semi poor and was bullied quite a bit as I was a geeky introvert even as a child.  I married an alcoholic (literally drank himself to death at 65), a  man who was a narcissist, sociopath and probably bi-polar as well.  He was always the life of the party and had numerous affairs. I never achieved an education as I worked while he went to college and grad school.  The last 10 years of marriage husband was unable to hold a job due to his drinking. 

Three children, 2 with ADHD and one with ADD as children, all with depression/anxiety.  Middle child was a trial (would take too long to describe here but not sure how I survived it).  Eventually we turned to tough love and turned him out onto the streets not sure he would survive (due to smoking crack).  He did survive and is a wonderful son, husband and is a great father to a new baby.  My daughter had breast cancer at 27 and it recurred by time she was 30.  During that time she was diagnosed as bi-polar.  She lives with me (along with her boyfriend and his 18 year old son) as she is not able to hold a job – yes, I support 3 homeless people…as my daughter recovered my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  She raised me as a care taker (enabler) which is the role I tend to fall into in every aspect of my life (for goodness sake, my career mostly was Executive Assistant to Presidents – taking care of them).  I became her care taker first in her home, then into assisted living, then into nursing care, then hospice living to 89 – about 12 years in decline.  

A year later I was diagnosed with breast cancer – 0 stage choosing a bilateral mastectomy.  While recovering I discovered our house was being foreclosed on and thought about bankruptcy only to find out I couldn’t apply for it since our taxes hadn’t been paid for over 10 years – over $12,000) Spent 5 years paying off all my taxes, charge cards and any debts.  Next step was divorce that was ugly and mean and expensive taking up most of my savings meaning working longer before retirement.

Laurie says that she takes each day, each trial and each accomplishment ‘as they happen’. Being an activist since she was 12 (having even protested during the Vietnam War!), she tries to live her life with no regrets, anger or disappointment. In implementing her word in her life at present, she’s “trying to let go and relax” confident that she can do all she can to help others and other social justice causes. With Laurie being one of the first few women photographed for A1, she was asked if she saw her photo before its release to the public, as well as before The Awakenings Project compilation. She said she finds it hard to look at pictures of herself due to childhood self-image.

Even though Laurie does not identify herself as a feminist, she finds it a confusing word to use. She dislikes the word, but is aware of the inequalities and injustices that women face, as well as the stereotypes and expectations put upon them. Laurie’s quote in regards to feminism is this:

“I think each human being should be accepted for who they are,

not what gender, race or religion they are.”

 Laurie Wichmann Dore was born in DePaul Hospital in north St. Louis, MO  and started early life in St. Louis’ City Park area near Polish Falcons. She has lived in Jennings, MO, Columbia, MO, and Ferguson, MO as well as couple years in Raleigh, NC  before ending up in Florissant, MO for the past 43 years. All 3 of her children are wonderful, college-educated loving adults. One of her passions, beyond her children, is social justice.

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a Comment