Cover photo for Dorothy Menzel's Obituary
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1924 Dorothy (Dolly) Menzel 2024

Dorothy Menzel

November 3, 1924 — February 5, 2024

Mount Vernon

Dorothy (Dolly) Menzel of Mount Vernon, New York, passed away on Monday, February 5, 2024, at the age of 99.

Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia to Alexander Menzel, a sugar broker, and Elizabeth Menzel. Dorothy was one of two children. The children spoke both German and Czech.

In 1939, Dorothy’s family emigrated to the United States when she was 14 years old (she had a vivid recollection of being seasick during the ocean crossing). 

After graduating from Mount Vernon High School, Dorothy attended Swarthmore College in Philadelphia, where she majored in literature (“I really wanted to study geology, but it wasn’t offered”). She subsequently entered graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1954 obtained a PhD in Anthropology. Her specialty was analyzing the pottery styles of the Ica culture of Ancient Peru. Her work from that period was published in 1964 and basically still stands, even if slightly modified by later research. She was highly regarded in her special field. Colleagues would seek out her opinion and knowledge.

While at UC Berkeley, Dorothy met Francis (Fritz) Riddell. They married and in 1954 conducted field studies at Late Horizon sites in the Acarí and Chala valleys of Peru, under the auspices of Victor von Hagen's Inca Road project. Dorothy felt that she and Fritz made a good team since he was better at excavation, and she was better at interpretation. Together they had their son, James. They subsequently divorced but remained friends. Dorothy remained in Berkeley, engaged in both teaching and research. One of her major efforts was producing the catalog for an exhibition at what is now the Hearst Museum of Anthropology of artifacts from excavations conducted by the German archaeologist Max Uhle.

In the mid-1970s, Dorothy returned to Mount Vernon to care for her parents. For more than thirty years she was employed at the environmental engineering firm of Malcolm Pirnie, Inc. (now Arcadis) in White Plains. She had a strong work ethic and loved her job. She was known for her “Dorothy-isms” (“You look like a strained hair in a can” and “Off in a cloud of birdseed”).

Dorothy is survived by her son Jim (Sandy) Riddell, and her grandchildren, Breanna, Kaitlyn, Seth, Jasmine, Jared, and Danica Riddell.  She will be missed by her longtime friend, Merlin Shelstad, and her niece Marjorie Menzel. She is predeceased by her parents Alexander and Elizabeth Menzel, and her brother, Otto Menzel.

A celebration of Dorothy’s life will take place at the Pelham Funeral Home located at 64 Lincoln Ave., Pelham NY on Thursday, February 8, 3034 between the hours of 10:000 am and 11:00 am. Interment will follow at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in New Rochelle.

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Thursday, February 8, 2024

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