A Mother, Maine Realtor, farm restorer, rider, and veteran reflects on how Life’s pieces can fit together
Dorothea “Dolly” Perkins has a large and vibrant family, is living on the farm of her dreams, is an award-winning real estate agent, has a long record of military and community service, enjoys her background in engineering and language study, and . . . is a rider, too? She’s a woman who is not afraid of hard work and who embraces life as a pleasure and an adventure. Somehow all the different parts of her life have fallen together into a productive and beautiful pattern.
Dolly grew up in Eustis, Florida. Her mother was a nurse. Her grandfather was a contractor and her father, an engineer. “My brother and I, my dad, my grandfather, and my uncles built the house we lived in, and we flipped houses,” she said. “I remember mixing concrete in a tub, chipping bricks to reuse in walkways and driveways. I would get a nickel a brick for each one I cleaned. We did all kinds of stuff like that.” Those childhood experiences were the building blocks for her eventual path into the engineering field and into her career as a Realtor, she said.
Early on, she developed a love of horse riding. “I’ve been riding since I was probably 3 or 4,” she recalled. “My brother had a pony named Billy. And when I was 9, I got the first horse of my own, Shawnee. I had some lessons from a family friend and then joined the Lake County 4-H Horse Club. A week or two after I got there, the woman in charge of 4-H took away my saddle and said I would not get it back until I learned how to ride the horse. She said, ‘You’ve been riding the saddle, not the horse.’ I credit that experience with why I’m pretty good at this. I occasionally still compete a little bit in Western Pleasure, and I used to do what’s called gaming, which is barrel racing and pole jumping and that kind of thing. I placed three times back in the early ʼ90s in California at the state championship level.”
Growing up, she also modeled at trade shows and ran cross country track in the three-mile category, excelling in her age group. After graduation from high school, she worked retail for a while, studied at Central Texas College, and then joined the U.S. Army. “My schooling would be paid for, I would have health insurance and lodging, and it seemed like the thing to do,” Dolly said. During her time in the military, she became an engineer and a linguistics expert, among other things.
It was the army that brought Dolly to California, where she studied Russian at the Defense Language Institute (DLI). “I also speak Spanish, and I picked up some Pidgin.” The DLI is also where Dolly met her husband, Chad Perkins, who was serving in Military Intelligence and learned Korean.
“We never dated,” Dolly said, laughing. Chad had driven to the east coast for a visit home, and new orders had come in. “He called me up on a Tuesday night and asked, ‘What are you doing Friday? Do what you’ve got to do because we’re getting married.’ And we did. He is still my favorite person, and we have had a very interesting life. He is a police officer, computer expert—he runs my network—and keeps me up and running! And he sits on the board of Katahdin Valley Health Center and has been very involved in community service for many years.”
With Chad still in the army and two young children, Dolly signed up with the U.S. Army Reserve. The family was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. “I got reclassified into civil engineering and worked at III Corps Headquarters (HQ),” said Dolly. “I was sent to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for training. I got to do concrete testing, design, drafting, map making, which is handy in real estate.”
Dolly worked in HQ as “an administrative type. If two or three generals walked in and asked for coffee and a helicopter, by golly, I could get them both,” she recalled with pride.
When the couple got discharged, they moved to Maine, joining the Army National Guard, and serving with the 181st Air Traffic Control Platoon as air traffic controllers. They rented in Old Town for a year, with Chad working an IT job and Dolly working for an engineering firm. “I really didn’t like being stuck in an office all the time,” she said. “I found it very dissatisfying. I had a couple of young children at the time, so I started a home daycare. That’s how I ended up doing foster care and adopting, too.”
Dolly and Chad have 11 children ranging in age from 10 to 30. “Seven are homemade, and four are acquired by other means,” she said with a smile. “And we have had others, both formal and informal foster children over the years. Some have stayed from a couple of days to a couple of years.”
Chad opened an IT business, and the family relocated to a larger home in Brownville. The couple has been active in the American Legion since their army days. Chad served as commander of the Brownville post, while Dolly held every office except post commander and treasurer, and she also held a seat on the town board of selectmen, eventually becoming its chair.
In 2013, Dolly was asked to appear on “Dancing Like the Stars,” a fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. “Somebody contacted me and said they were looking for local celebrities. I guess if you have a whole bunch of kids, run a business, and dabble in local politics, that makes you freakish enough to be a local celebrity,” she said, laughing. Dolly was paired with professional dancer Terrance Man-Ching Lee. The pair raised $6,860, and the overall event raised over $42,000. “I was third for dollars raised,” she said. “I was pretty proud of that!”
About 18 years ago, Dolly went into real estate. All of the skills acquired flipping properties with her family and serving in the military, as well as her confident, outgoing personality, have made her a success in this competitive field. Despite safety guidelines that made listing and showing properties more challenging last spring, in May the Realty of Maine broker was recognized for the highest dollar volume for an individual agent, closing on nearly $1 million for the month. She has won other awards in her field, as well, which she is justly proud of, noting that the highest dollar volume honor typically goes to Realtors in higher-priced markets such as Bangor or coastal Maine.
During the shutdown due to COVID-19, “we closed our small Dover-Foxcroft office for about a month, and I worked from home,” she said. “When it became clear that we would be able to reopen, I leased a larger space—three times the size—so we could have meetings and closings and still be able to socially distance.” Now Dolly and business partner Xiaorong Horton, and Dolly’s son, Lliam Perkins, also a licensed agent, have room to spread out, and take turns providing office coverage when others are out for showings or closings.
Dolly and Chad also realized another life goal in Dover-Foxcroft, buying a farm.
“The farm has been a dream both my husband and I have wanted for years,” she said. “On the Fourth of July, 2017, we moved in. We have been ‘bringing it back’ since. It was built in 1830 and used as just a home with no production for many years.”
Eventually, the farm may see some commercial output, but for now it meets the family’s needs. There are cows, horses, pigs, chickens, geese, bees, a large garden, and two small orchards, as well as pastures and about 40 acres of timber on the property.
Several of her adult children live adjacent to the property, and everyone helps each other with childcare, animal care, tending gardens, and other farm chores. “It’s nice to be able to share and have great neighbors! We are able to share the tractor, tools, and the work. We all benefit from fresh veggies and home-raised meat. One of them has a hot tub and a pool. It’s nice to go soak and swim, and then gather around the fire pit at night and just listen to music and chat. Some of our best friends bought a home nearby, too. The community here is fantastic—they are my favorite people!”