Dorothy Downton was born Dorothy Elizabeth Hessler to Rev. and Mrs. Edward A. Hessler in Manistee, Michigan, on November 11, 1946.
In 1959 she and her family moved to Conklin when her father accepted a call to Trinity Lutheran Church. After completing eighth grade at Trinity Lutheran School, she was enrolled in Sparta High School in September, 1960, graduating in June, 1964. Following high school, she attended Davenport College of Business (now Davenport University) in Grand Rapids, graduating in December, 1965, with an Associate in Science degree as a Legal Secretary.
Having made application for employment with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), she was hired and began work in Washington, D.C. on January 17, 1966. Initially assigned to the Prints Division of the Bureau, because of her stenographic skills, she was later transferred to the Washington Field Office of the FBI.
Early in her employment with the FBI, she received a job offer from the Office of Congressman Gerald R. Ford. He had recently been elected by his fellow Republican colleagues to be the new Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. As a result of his leadership position, additional staff was needed. She turned down the offer since she had promised to stay with the FBI for at least one year (which was a requirement for new hires). In December, 1966, she received a second offer from Minority Leader Ford's office, because they still needed another secretary who understood shorthand to take dictation. On January 20, 1967, after completing one year and three days with the FBI, she became a secretary to the Administrative Assistant to Minority Leader Ford, Frank Meyer.
From that date until August, 1972, she gained experience, frequently taking dictation from Minority Leader Ford.
Then an event occurred that changed everything. Frank Meyer was in Ford's Grand Rapids office (where he was working on the re-election campaign of Congressman Ford) when he collapsed and died at his desk. Because of the timing, responsibilities were shifted, and Dorothy was selected by Ford to replace his long-time Personal Secretary, Mildred Leonard, as she took on much of the administrative work.
In September, 1973, she met her future husband, David Downton, who was employed on Capitol Hill through the office of Congressman Goodloe E. Byron of Maryland.
Events were moving swiftly as Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland, President Richard Nixon's Vice President, was forced to resign due to irregularities when he was Baltimore County Executive. At the same time, the Watergate scandal was plaguing the Nixon Administration, and Nixon, seeking a candidate for the Office of Vice President who would pass congressional scrutiny, nominated Gerald Ford in October, 1973. Following extensive and probing hearings, including IRS audits, Ford was sworn in as the 40th Vice President of the United States on December 6, 1973, and Dorothy became the Personal Secretary to Vice President Ford, and thus an employee of the United States Senate.
In the aftermath of this turmoil, Dorothy and Dave came to Michigan to be married by her father on December 30, 1973, at Trinity Lutheran Church.
The Watergate scandal very soon became a crisis, and by early August of 1974, it was clear that Richard Nixon would be forced to resign, or face impeachment by the House and trial by the Senate.
On August 9, 1974, Gerald R. Ford became the 38th President of the United States, being sworn in by Chief Justice Warren Burger shortly after noon, when Nixon's resignation took effect. From then until January 20, 1977, Dorothy held the position of Personal Secretary to the President.
After Gerald Ford's electoral loss the previous November, he asked Dorothy and Dave to move with him and Mrs. Ford to Palm Springs, California, where they had decided to reside because of Mrs. Ford's health. Becoming Assistant to the Former President, Dorothy continued to work for former President Ford until November, 1980, when husband Dave's work brought them back to Michigan.
Living in a northern suburb of Detroit, Dorothy, after an eight-year period out of the work force, went back to work outside of the home in May, 1990, as the Personal Secretary for the CEO of Lionel Trains, holding that position until July, 1994.
Finally, in May, 1995, she became the Administrative Assistant to the Chief of Bureau for Michigan of The Associated Press. She retired from The AP on January 18, 2008.
She and husband Dave currently reside in Carleton, Michigan.