Velma Reid Dunn, the mother of Durango resident Patrice Heller, died Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, in the Phoenix area. She was 84.
Mrs. Dunn was the oldest of four daughters born to Harlie and Ottie Lee Barnes on June 12, 1928, in Heflin, La. She grew up in Shreveport, La., graduating from Byrd High School.
During World War II, she married Derril Pilkenton in Louisiana. The marriage later ended in divorce.
In the 1960s, she owned the Shreveport/Draughon-Norton Business School and the first Manpower Temporary Help franchise in the area. Mrs. Dunn was instrumental in establishing statewide training for returning Vietnam veterans. She traveled to other states, including Arizona, to help others start up training for heavy equipment operators.
In the mid-1960s, she married Edward J. Wasielewski.
After moving to Phoenix in 1972, she worked as a real estate broker for many years. Her family said she became an environmental activist during the late 1980s and early 1990s after discovering groundwater contamination beneath a vast swath of homes she was seeking to sell to a commercial developer. She began by going to the Environmental Protection Agency and the legal system to help the homeowners, and eventually she traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify before the Supreme Court. Mrs. Dunn also appeared on “60 Minutes” during the controversy.
In addition to their Phoenix home, she and her husband owned a mountain cabin near Prescott Valley, Ariz., where they enjoyed entertaining. Mrs. Dunn also enjoyed caring for their Doberman pinschers and the challenge of new business ventures.
Mrs. Dunn was preceded in death by her husband of more than 45 years, Edward J. Wasielewski, who died one month before she did; and daughter Melodie Rose Reid.
She is survived by her daughters Patrice Heller of Durango and Roatan, Honduras, and Pamela Summerlin of Madison, S.D.; sister Jane Lebon of Pana, Ill.; stepdaughters Mary Wasielewski of Greece, Anne Marie Wasielewski of Milwaukee and Vergie Wasielewski Rogers of Cincinnati; eight grandchildren; five stepgrandchildren; and several great-grandchildren.
No service is planned at this time.
Memorial contributions may be sent to Hospice of the Valley, 16117 N. 76th St., Scottsdale, AZ 85260-1793; or the charity of one’s choice.