1922 – 2015

AUBURN — Dorothy Elizabeth (Burrill) Larrabee, 93, a resident of Schooner Estates in Auburn, died peacefully Tuesday evening, Oct. 20, surrounded by her family.

“Dot,” as she was known, was born in Brockton, Mass., on June 24, 1922, the daughter of Pauline and Charles Burrill. A 1940 graduate of Brockton High School, she received her bachelor’s degree from RPI College of William and Mary in Richmond, Va., in 1944. She received a master’s degree in social work from Simmons College in Boston in 1946.

She met her husband, Franklin Larrabee of Lewiston, at a USO dance in Richmond, Va., while he was stationed there during World War II. They were married on Oct. 6, 1946, in Brockton and established their home in Lewiston.

She began her social work career working in Auburn for the state of Maine Division of Child Welfare, where she was the first social worker with a master’s degree in social work for the department.

In 1949, she left to raise her children and became an active volunteer at a number of community organizations. She served as a board member and later, the president of the Lewiston-Auburn YWCA. She was an active member of the United Baptist Church in Lewiston, as well as a clerk for the Maine Council of Churches. Dot was active in the League of Women Voters and moderated a televised gubernatorial debate. She also found the time to be involved in Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts.


In the midst of her community involvement, she taught gifted fifth- and sixth-grade students in the Auburn school system for two years, beginning in 1959. She was then recruited to return to the child welfare field by the state Division of Child Welfare in Lewiston. She continued to work for the department until 1974 in a variety of roles, including foster care and adoption. Recognizing that children’s psychological needs are better served in a family setting, she was instrumental in developing state licensing standards for foster homes, which led to the department’s much larger use of foster care and the eventual closing of many orphanages.

During her career, she served as president of the Maine chapter of National Association of Social Workers, member and later chairperson of the Maine Human Services Council and member of the Child Welfare Advisory Committee, as well as serving on the Governor’s Task Force on Foster Care for Children and the Coalition for Maine Children.

Remaining active in community service, she was heavily involved in Pathways, a rehabilitation agency, where she was a board member and president in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1976, she and other community volunteers formed a group to create New Beginnings, which opened its first youth shelter in Greene in 1980. New Beginnings has grown into a multifaceted organization, serving the needs of homeless youth and in crisis in southern Maine. Having served on its board for over 20 years, in April, she was honored by New Beginnings with a lifetime service award at a dinner at the Ann Geiger Center on College Street. Later in her life, she was a member of the United Methodist Church in Auburn.

She is survived by a son, Owen W., and his wife, Melissa Albertson, of Ardmore, Pa; a daughter, Martha E. Larrabee, and her husband, Gregory Cherneff, of Littleton, Mass; four grandchildren, Katherine and Meredith Larrabee and Elizabeth and Rebecca Cherneff.

You may offer your condolences to Dot’s family at www.thefortingroupauburn.com.

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