Happy 100th Birthday, Anne
Resident Anne Dolansky recently celebrated her 100th birthday. Anne has been a Resident of this Home for nearly 10 years! Here is a tribute to Anne written by Volunteer Greg Madzelonka. Photos of her celebration are included below.
Tribute to Anne Dolansky
I am happy to call myself a friend of Anne Dolansky for the past three years since I have been volunteering at the facility. She was in my original short story reading group along with four others. We gathered once a week to read, and then discuss, short stories offering our opinions of what the authors meant. It was through her participation in these discussions that I learned about Anne’s past, beginning with her upbringing in small coal-mining towns near Uniontown, Pennsylvania, her time in Pittsburgh and Cleveland during World War II, and then the rest of her working life and eventual move to Little Sisters. Listening to her, I discovered how Anne had become this kind and loving person.
Anne was born in Allison, PA having come from a family of seven children, including three brothers and three sisters with Anne born right in the middle. By the age of three, Anne and family moved to Brier Hill, a town located near Route 40, eight miles from Uniontown. They had to move because her father lost his job as a coal miner when the company closed their doors. They had no electricity or running water in the house and had to carry water from a spicket down the street. They had an old round silver tub that they put in the kitchen to take baths. There was always a large barrel by the front door where they made homemade sauerkraut. The rent was $2.00 a month and they couldn’t really afford even that. Anne and her siblings would go picking berries and then would sell them door to door. She said there was a teacher who would often buy them, and she thinks she did this to help them. Her brothers would wait until the coal trucks pulled out and would pick up loose coal they dropped and bring the coal home so they could keep warm. She loved to go swimming in the summer in the reservoir and went ice skating in the winter.
Both her mother and father came to the United States by boat from Europe, hoping for a better life. They met through relatives, later married, and started a family. Anne started elementary school and developed friendships with the other children in the small town. It was with this group of children who decided to go to the movies in Brownsville one Saturday afternoon.
It was a long walk. Several of the girls began to complain how tired they were, when another suggested they hitch a ride into town. The girl who made the suggestion said riding in a car would get them to the movie theater quickly. They were all excited to go see Hop Along Cassidy star in the film and getting a ride would also allow for time to spend in Brownsville looking around. After several cars passed them by, one did stop. All five kids piled in and the driver started off after finding out they wanted to go the movie house. After several miles, the group told the driver to turn on the road which led to Brownsville, but the driver kept on going. At first, they protested rather meekly, but when he continued ignoring them, the group panicked then pleaded, and finally began to scream frantically for him to let them out. Eventually the driver relented, stopped the car and the group walked the rest of the way. Anne and the rest of the group were relieved and later enjoyed the film.
Several weeks later the same group started walking back to Brier Hill after watching another film. It was late and they wanted to get home. It was no surprise that someone suggested hitchhiking again. Anne did not want anything to do with any more hitchhiking. She told the group she was not doing that again and adamantly refused to get in a car after one had stopped. She said it was a dark, lonely, and scary walk the rest of the way. She said she had learned her lesson and had resolved to never try to hitch a ride again and she meant it.
After Anne finished high school she went to work in Pittsburgh. She worked hard and lived with her mother who moved away from Brier Hill. She wanted to become a nun, but it did not work out; a regret she has talked about. Shortly thereafter, the United States joined the fight in World War II. Anne got a job as a riveter- that’s right, one and the same as Rosie the Riveter, who was on the famous poster. She had to move to Cleveland and worked in the war plant there. She did much of the preparation work for welding and when the welder was on break, Anne took over. She liked the work and felt good about getting a good paycheck. She was able to send money back to her family. She sent as much as she could to help. This job also meant more for her as well because Anne felt she was contributing to the war effort, that was so important to everyone at this time.
Her living arrangements in a group home with five other ladies while in Cleveland were not quite comfortable. Rooming was not easy, especially when she was considered the outsider from Pittsburgh. Long waits for the restroom and unkind remarks made this part of her life tolerable, at best. She was glad when the war was over because the soldiers could come home, but also because she was able to return home to Pittsburgh.
Anne moved a number of times after she returned, living in the West End, Sheraden, and eventually the North Side. With the help of her nieces, she moved into the Little Sisters of the Poor, which is special to her. She loves it and she feels most comfortable there. In the entrance of her room, she has a statue of the Blessed Mother. It had been her mother’s so many years ago in Brier Hill. Anne’s younger brother was quite sick at the time. The doctor said he was not going ‘to make it’. Anne’s mother sent her to the neighbors’ houses to gather the ladies for a prayer meeting. Anne said they all knelt, looking at the statue and prayed for her brother’s survival, hoping to save his life. Anne still looks at the statue and remembers what she considered a miracle that occurred back then; her brother survived and went on to lead a life beyond those early years in the coal mining towns of western Pennsylvania.
Anne is a person of strong faith. All you have to do is talk with Anne and you soon witness her belief in the importance of God to her life, and are reminded the role God has in your own life as well.