Roberta Kells Dorr, missionary, author, artist, dies in Kentucky

One of Blount County’s treasures has died at the age of 88 in Berea, Ky. Roberta Kells Dorr, who was born in Minneapolis, lived in Maryville for 35 years. She was an author, artist, missionary and popular lecturer.

Mrs. Dorr was born March 2, 1922, in Minneapolis, the daughter of the late Robert and Dorothy Sherwood. She married David C. Dorr in 1946 after corresponding with him while he was in the service in Japan. After returning to the U.S. and marrying, David Dorr finished his studies and became a doctor. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease and given 1 to 5 years to live, David Dorr defied the odds, finished medical school and became a surgeon. When the disease went into remission in 1959, David and Roberta left for the mission field in Gaza, their four children in tow. Their fifth child was born in Gaza.

Mrs. Dorr began writing her historical novels while in the Gaza Strip and Yemen. She researched and published “David and Bathsheba,” “Solomon’s Song,” “Queen of Sheba,” “The Long Journey,” “The Blessing,” “Honored” and “Alice.” The Dorrs moved to Maryville, where Dr. Dorr practiced at Blount Memorial, Fort Sanders and Baptist hospitals. Dr. Dorr died in 2000 from complications from Parkinson’s Disease. During her time in Maryville, Mrs. Dorr devoted her time to writing. She was on the Symphony League Board, co-founder of the Guild for the Smoky Mountain Passion Play, writing a definitive history of its founding vision and first season called “Something Of Value.” She is former president of the Blount County Medical Auxiliary, and member of Maryville First Baptist Church.

She is survived by her children: Philip, Paul, Debby, John, and James. 12 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, at River of Life Church, Berea, Ky. No visitation scheduled. Reppert Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.

For an in-depth story on Mrs. Dorr’s life, go to and search for Roberta Dorr.

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