Dorothy Heinz Gulbransen


Dorothy Heinz Gulbransen, age 96, born in Baltimore March 2, 1916 died March 29th at The Terraces of Los Altos skilled nursing facility. Her husband Hack passed in 1982. On October 22nd she became ill and had a three day hospital stay. From there she went into an undiagnosed decline and never recovered. She said not to worry about her; she was fine, had a great life and was in no pain. She is survived by her long time companion Captain John Minor of Coronado Cays, California , her son Gary of Santa Barbara, daughter Bari of Santa Fe and five grandchildren. No services are planned.


One of the last things my mom, Dorothy Heinz Gulbransen, said was “I’ve had a good life.” Looking back on her years since 1916, you realize what an understatement that was.

Born and raised in Baltimore with her brother and sister, Mom finished high school and began work for Martin Aircraft as a secretary. Good fortune touched her, as it often did. One day in December 1935, a handsome pilot named Haakon Gulbransen walked into the office to pick up a new clipper flying boat for the very young company Pan American Airways. The weather had turned and iced up parts of the Baltimore Harbor . He waited several days for a thaw to free the plane for takeoff. His assignment was to fly it down to Pan Am’s base in Miami . Meanwhile, he chatted everyday with the gorgeous secretary, asked her out for dinner and the rest is our Gulbransen history.

On September 16, 1936, they were married in Oakland only a few blocks from where their third granddaughter Krista would have her first apartment. During those years in California , Hack and Dot began developing friendships that would last a lifetime. She became especially close to the wives of other pilots. Their get-togethers over the years meant much laughter and the rewards of strong friendships.

One of the major joys of their lives arrived in 1938: Gary was born in Miami . The family became complete four years later when Bari was born. For the next 20 years, the large Gulbransen house in Great Neck had a revolving door of friends and family gathering for everything from cups of coffee to crazy parties.

When Gary left for the US Air Force Academy and Bari for Dana Hall in Boston , Hack and Dorothy stepped up their travel. In 1968, they decided to relocate on the West Coast and bought a house in Los Altos . That also became a center for gatherings out by the pool, holiday turkey dinners around the dining room table and a core for Pan Am parties. There Dorothy resumed her volunteer work begun at North Shore Hospital in Great Neck, this time at

Another wave of joy came with the birth of granddaughter Whitney Conover Goler in 1968 followed by births of Paige Conover Eido, Krista Gulbransen, Lindsay Conover and Carrie Gulbransen Hubbell. Gran and Granddaddy took obvious delight in their grandchildren, looked forward to visits and were cheerful babysitters even flying to Australia twice for duty.
After Hack’s death in 1982, Dottie found new direction with former Pan Am pilot John Minor. They burned the miles traveling, often with the Clipper Pioneers for cruises and reunions, when not splitting their time between Los Altos and John’s beautiful house on the water in Coronado Cays near San Diego . That house also became a center for many family reunions, thanks to John’s generosity and appreciation for family time.

Much of the family had the good fortune to spend time with Gran in the past several months.

Dorothy will remain in our hearts and fill our memories beyond full.

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