Though Dee's family moved to New York City when she was still a baby, she returned to Cleveland often during the course of her extensive professional acting career. In particular, she and her husband Ossie Davis, who died in 2005, were ongoing supporters of Karamu House. In 1991, they co-produced the musical "Generations" there.
The PD reported last year that Dee, when in town for performances, on her nights off, would steal away to Karamu to offer impromptu master classes. She had a deep connection to the oldest black theater in the country.
In 2007, Dee was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in American Gangster. Even in her old age, she was a force to be reckoned with on screen and on the stage.