November 27, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
31°F

Proud of her Polish heritage

Mae Dillworth, the daughter of Polish immigrants, kept in touch with relatives in Poland and sponsored two of her cousins to come to the United States 40 years ago.

“She was very proud of being Polish,” said her daughter, Veronica Hayes.

Years ago, Mae served as president of the Polish Legion of American Veterans Ladies Auxiliary Chapter in Summit County. Her Irish-American husband, Verne, is a past commander of the organization’s counterpart, PLAV Pulaski Post 32 in Akron.

Mae Dillworth, right, is pictured with her daughter, Veronica Hayes, center, Veronica’s mother-in-law, Amy Hayes, left, and Veronica’s son, J.J., in the late 1980s. (Photo provided)

Mae Dillworth, right, is pictured with her daughter, Veronica Hayes, center, Veronica’s mother-in-law, Amy Hayes, left, and Veronica’s son, J.J., in the late 1980s. (Photo provided)

Mae, who died June 20, 2010, at age 87, lived on a farm in Granger Township for more than 50 years, but she was never truly far from the Polish enclave in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood where she grew up.

“She was a lovable person and a goodhearted person,” said longtime friend Cecelia Woicehovich. “We traded recipes and jokes.

“We always talked about pierogies. We used to make them by hand. Christmas Eve dinner is the most important meal for Polish people all year. We would make about a thousand pierogies of different kinds — enough that family could take some home afterwards.”

As for the jokes: “They were a little off-color,” Woicehovich said. “It was so cute. They weren’t bad, but they were real ornery. That was Mae.”

She was born Maria Agnes Pulaski in Akron on July 16, 1922, and began calling herself “Mae” at a young age.

Her parents had come to the United States from Poland as teenagers, but met and married in this country.

Mae, the youngest of their three children, was 12, when her dad died of jaundice. After that, her mother did cleaning and took in ironing to support the family.

After graduating from Akron’s North High School, Mae took a job as a teller with First National Bank of Akron, where she worked for many years.

“Back in those days, it was unusual for a woman to have a career like that,” her daughter said.

Mae met Verne Dillworth on a blind date in 1941. They were married Oct. 17, 1942, at St. Hedwig Catholic Church in Akron.
“They had a traditional three-day Polish wedding,” their daughter said.

While Verne served with the Army infantry in Europe during World War II, Mae lived with her mom in Akron and continued working at the bank.

She joined the PLAV auxiliary in 1949 and was a member for more than 50 years. Long after she and her husband had cut back on their active roles with the post and the auxiliary, they continued attending PLAV fish fries, Christmas parties and picnics to show their support.

Mae left the bank in the 1950s after Verne bought a large farm in Granger Township in northeast Medina County.

“My mom as a city girl was not happy about being taken away to the country, away from her friends,” their daughter said.

Yet she adjusted to rural life. She loved to invite friends from the city to the farm for picnics. She offered them produce — particularly corn — from Verne’s garden. She also took up canning.

“She always had to feed everybody,” her daughter said.

The Dillworths were known for their Labor Day picnics.

“Everybody brought a covered dish,” Woicehovich said. “When our kids were small, Verne would take us on a hayride with his tractor.”

Her family was somewhat surprised when Mae joined the Granger Garden Club.

“Mom was always the type, the minute she went outside she got bit by something,” her daughter said. “She was not a real outdoors type of person. She was in the garden club for camaraderie of the other ladies. It was more social than anything.

“My dad had the farm here, but he was more of a gentleman farmer. He had a full-time job (as an insurance claims manager) and did farming on the side.”

The Dillworths were members of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Medina, “but they preferred going to a little church across from Revere High School called St. Victor’s in Richfield,” their daughter said. “They liked that little church.”

Mae also faithfully followed the Cleveland Indians.

“I think the highlight was when Jerry (her son) took her to one of the World Series games the Indians were in,” her daughter said.

Her other passion was bingo.

“She would play bingo seven days a week if she could,” her daughter said. “She was very lucky.”

As her bingo-playing excursions decreased to once a week, Mae chose Our Lady of Cedars on Cleveland-Massillon Road as her chief bingo venue.

In an online guest book, folks from Our Lady of Cedars Bingo described Mae as a likable and elegant lady.

Whether going to bingo, church or ballgames, Mae always looked her best. Even when she was ill, she got her hair done once a week and always wore make-up.

“My mom was a classy woman,” her daughter said.

Alana Baranick can be reached at abaranick@chroniclet.com or (216) 862-2617.