Eleanor Freda “Pretty Flower” Spears Dove, 100, the eldest member of the Narragansett Tribal Nation, of Arcadia Road in Richmond, Rhode Island made her journey to the spirit world on July 13, 2019 encircled by the love of her family in her home. The beloved wife of the late Narragansett Warchief, Ferris Babcock “Chief Roaring Bull” Dove. Eleanor stood as a matriarchal pillar within her community. Throughout her century of life she represented the manifestation of love eternal. A mother to four, grandmother to ten, great grandmother to many, and a great-great grandmother to a growing few, her family has been at the heart of her life’s work. The makings of Eleanor are impossible to fully capture as she truly embodied all of the best attributes one can behold. For those who had the opportunity to witness the gentle power, regal grace, kindness, and sheer beauty (inside and out) of Eleanor, they know just how phenomenal this centenarian matriarch was.
Born August 1, 1918, in Providence, Rhode Island, she was the daughter of the late Joseph M. Spears and Mildred Hardy Spears. Eleanor, as the eldest of five siblings developed a strong work ethic and natural maternal instincts at a young age as she helped her mother in caring for her younger siblings. The granddaughter of a restaurateur and the daughter of a chef, Eleanor quickly developed her kitchen skills and a love for cooking. Raised in an indigenous home, Eleanor would visit the country with her maternal grandmother, who was born on the Narragansett reservation before its illegal detribalization in 1880, for traditional celebrations and ceremonies every summer.
Eleanor would eventually find the woods of South County that she visited as a girl to become her forever home when she would find love at first sight. In true love story fashion this “city” girl would spot the man of her dreams, a Narragansett from the country visiting the city for a dance, when Ferris walked in, Eleanor looked up and remarked to her young aunt sitting next to her, “I’ll take the tall one” and so it began. In September of 1938 Eleanor would marry and become Mrs. Ferris Babcock Dove and together they would raise three daughters and a son and through their combined ambition, determination, community spirit and generosity, go on to make history.
Eleanor started her career as a caterer serving the state’s dignitaries in Watch Hill and Charlestown, Rhode Island. Along with her husband, they opened the award winning and world renowned DoveCrest Indian Restaurant, the first Native American cuisine restaurant in the country, in Arcadia Village, Exeter, Rhode Island. Dovecrest restaurant was written up in the New York Times (12/9/81) for Eleanor's "Raccoon Pie", and her Johnnycakes received the "America's Best!" award in 1979. In 1981 she was added to the Congressional Record, her cuisine was written about in the Washington Post (March 24, 1982) as well as in The Boston Globe (1982), to list only a few. Eleanor, a world class chef as taught by her father and following the traditions of her Niantic Narragansett culture was also awarded along with Chef Wolfgang Puck in 1982 the Salute to American Food Awards hosted by Ocean Spray.
Eleanor once shared in an interview; “My love affair with restaurants and cooking with good traditional Indian food may have come about because my grandfather, my father, and my uncles were all chefs and owned restaurants. (In my thirties) I was employed in (the) private industry, and I decided I wanted to stop working an eight-hour day and to stop punching a time clock. My husband said as long as I was still able to buy the groceries, he would support and help me achieve my dream of a restaurant, and so the Dovecrest Indian Restaurant came into being. My father, my husband, my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and other relatives have all worked in the restaurant. Now, instead of working an eight-hour day, I work eighteen...but, I don’t have to punch a timeclock.”
Married in the Narragansett Tribe’s Indian Church in Charlestown, Eleanor would become a lifetime member of the congregation and served on the Church Board of Trustees until her death. Eleanor opened a Native American gift shop in the 1960s in Arcadia Village, around this time she also supported the Tomaquag Museum (National Medal for Museum and Libraries Awardee) by providing a much needed home to house the priceless indigenous cultural materials held in collections. Eleanor served on Tomaquag’s Board of Directors and until her death sat on the Honorary Board of Directors. Eleanor is known throughout New England along the Powwow Trail where she traveled for decades selling traditional handcrafted Native American art and jewelry.
Throughout all her years and her myriad of accomplishments, awards, and contributions to her community, there is no question that her life’s work was raising her family. Eleanor led by example, demonstrating to her family what love, hard work, kindness, compassion, generosity, spirituality and faith looked like. In addition to raising her own children, she took on many other “sons & daughters” helping to raise nieces, nephews, and other youth in need. Eleanor created a home of love. Eleanor had a magical gift of making everyone in her presence feel loved and special. She showed her love through her food, one grandchild once remarked that “every night is ‘Sunday Dinner’ at Gram’s house!” Throughout her one hundred years Eleanor spent countless hours over a stove preparing meals for her family, for those she loved, and for any in need.
In the 90s, Eleanor traveled to the South of France and to Russia with championship Native American dance troupes to perform at the World Folk Festival in Martigues, France and at the Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia. At 70 years old, after she retired, she took up painting, she also learned to make traditional porcupine quill earrings, at 73 she became a golfer. In her eighties she rode in a hot air balloon and on a motorcycle. As Eleanor approached her 101st birthday she continued to be an avid card player, enjoying daily games of solitaire, cribbage, and pitch. Eleanor was an avid reader and enjoyed working crossword puzzles. This centenarian has lived a rich and vibrant life, leaving a lasting legacy not only within her tribal community, but in her hometown of Exeter, the greater state of Rhode Island, throughout much of New England, and even across the globe. Eleanor’s gifts are everlasting, the imprint she has left on the hearts of those she has touched burns fiercely and her legacy stands taller than the great cedar tree, is more powerful than the ocean's waves, stronger than a summer storm, and shines brighter than the Perseids as they dance across our night’s sky.
Eleanor leaves her three beloved daughters, Paulla Dove Jennings and Dawn Dove both of Arcadia Village and Lori Hazard and husband Laurence of Georgia, and her ever loved daughter-in-law Brigitta Dove. Eleanor leaves children of the heart; Gil Reid and Tchin. Eleanor also leaves ten grandchildren, all her favorites; Alexander Schuberth, Heidi Burrell, David Dove, Elisabeth Dove-Manning, Gary Dove, Loren Spears, Adam Jennings, Daniel Dove, Ferris Tubby, and Eleanor Dove Harris. Also grandchildren of the heart Dawn Spears, Kevin Fayerweather, Brenda Hill, Col. Mark Reid, & Brian Logan Reid. Eleanor was so blessed to have loved many great and great-great grandchildren, five generations of love. Eleanor also leaves two sisters that she adored, Murial Tinsley and Mildred Mayo. Eleanor leaves behind innumerable loved ones, adopted children, surrogate grandchildren, friends and family. She was predeceased by her dear husband Ferris Babcock Dove, her only son Mark Ferris Dove, her much loved grandson Shawn Jennings, her daughter of the heart Diosa Summers, her cousin and friend Frederick Guiles, and beloved brothers Joseph Spears (WWII, MIA) and Donald Spears.
Visiting hours from 5-8pm on Tuesday, July 16, 2019 at the First Baptist Church of Hope Valley, Rhode Island. A celebration of life will be held on Wednesday, July 17, 2019 at 10:00am at the First Baptist Church, graveside service to follow at First Hopkinton Cemetery, Chase Hill Road, Ashaway. In lieu of flowers the family asks you to consider making a donation in Eleanor’s name to the Tomaquag Museum, 390 Summit Rd. Exeter, RI 02822.