Doroethy Leonard is Franklin Merrell-Wolff’s granddaughter, the person living today who best knew Franklin. She has committed her life to preserving and continuing his Work. As owner of his Lone Pine estate, she has operated The Great Space Center as a spiritual center in honor of his memory.
As an active part of developing our new website, it is my turn to submit a biography. First, I think of all the things that I won’t write, the things that stand behind who I am, such as the crises (car accidents, illnesses), the pain of divorce, the difficulties of parenting, the loss of parents, and so on. As Carl Jung, and others, have said, my life is not all on the surface to be seen. With that said:
I was born in Juneau, Alaska. My grandmother (my dad’s mom), Sherifa, suggested the insertion of the “e” in my name. Two reasons have been told me: One is that an English ancestor of Sherifa’s had her name spelled that way; the other is that Grandmother wanted me to have eight letters in my name.
My dad was mining gold there after his graduation from the Colorado School of Mines. My mother had completed two years of college. James and Helen Briggs were great parents, with the exception of a few of my adolescent years, but by my twenties, as Mark Twain said, they had learned a lot.
I met my grandmother and grandfather, Sherifa and Franklin Merrell-Wolff when I was 10 months old and returning to the U.S. from Alaska. My first—and most favorite—photo of him tells of how our relationship began—in mutual joy.
I married at 21 and began having children: Sherie, Michael, Dana, James and my twins, Bobby and Jennifer. I now have 13 grandchildren—all absolutely perfect. My family loves Lone Pine and all are a great help in caretaking this beautiful space. They also lovingly support Franklin’s legacy of writing and tapes.
My second marriage was to Ron Leonard. Franklin performed his sacred marriage ceremony for us in his Lone Pine home in 1983. Our civil ceremony followed this two months later. Obadiah Harris performed this ceremony in Phoenix.
Ron and I moved to Lone Pine in 1987 after Franklin’s passing to upgrade the facilities and establish the Great Space as a spiritual center. We continue to maintain our relationship and are partners in continuing Franklin’s legacy and his Lone Pine property, where we receive spiritual friends.
I have a Bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Arizona and a Masters degree in education from Arizona State University that I attained while sole support of six children. I finally decided to pursue my dream and received a Masters degree in counseling psychology fairly late in life. Although I had a little private practice, I mainly taught in the Counseling Department at Mesa Community College as an adjunct professor. I was also office manager for the college’s Philosophy and Religious Studies Department.
Franklin was my grandfather, but I always knew he was a man of wisdom and compassion. As a very young person, I loved the relationship I saw that Franklin had with my grandmother Sherifa. Their chairs were side by side in front of the fireplace in San Fernando, and they would hold hands and exchange loving glances. Their offices were also side by side, each small, with a desk and a typewriter. The San Fernando home surrounded by eucalyptus trees, and along a small stream, was built by Franklin and my dad (when Dad was 17). The large orange grove was tended by Franklin and was a source of income. Franklin’s mother and father, brother and sister, lived on adjacent land.
I lived with Franklin for a year from 1981–82 in Lone Pine. Franklin’s favorite spot was in his Lone Pine garden. This photo shows that it was also my favorite place to be.
That time was a special gift. He was making hour-long tapes in his office, and it seemed as though his energy radiated throughout the house during those times. The tapes were played for Sunday meetings and for yearly August Conventions. When he would speak of his Imperience, he would speak from his Imperience. As I made breakfast each morning for Franklin, Bobby and Jennifer (my twins who accompanied me to Lone Pine), he would watch the NBC News for two hours. My twins lived in the trailer and went to Lone Pine High School.
Grandmother (Sherifa) was a tremendous influence in my life. We were very different in personality types, but she embodied womanhood and an inner strength and knowledge in a way that I respected. She encouraged my own spirituality, with the freedom to be authentic. Sherifa was an extravert and shared her deepest experiences, as well as her ongoing surface experiences. I am an introvert, and am just now getting more at ease with sharing some of the inner fabric of my life.
As most of you know, Ron and I spend our summers on the property in Lone Pine that Franklin and Sherifa bought in 1941. It is a great joy to caretake this 400+ acres and five structures (Main House, a mobile home, the Point House, A-frame and the Cottage—the original farmhouse). Each year we do a little more upgrading of land and homes. I continue to be grateful that my health is such that I can do the hard work. And each year I sit in his office, mostly unchanged from when he would sit there, and reflect and remember. I feel an honor and a profound gratitude.