Sitting at her desk, tapping on her adding machine and combing through meticulously organized bills and bank statements, Dorothy Corey was her family’s chief financial officer.
She was also the ravioli maker and baby whisperer. And she could pour concrete and do home repairs.
A bank teller and child of the Great Depression, Mrs. Corey knew how to make a dollar last. She and Robert, her truck-driver husband of 60 years, raised five children in Dolton. They didn’t take fancy vacations or eat out. She fed them homemade golabki, pizza and ravioli, as well as bounty from a family vegetable garden. Twice a month, she made deposits to a Christmas Club bank account so there would be money for gifts at the holidays.
For decades, the Coreys had one car. When her husband was on the road or at work, “We used to walk to the grocery store or to the park,” said their son, Chris. “I remember her getting all the kids together and planning to do something without a car, organizing us to get things done.”
“She never hired anyone to do a job — she would still get up on the ladder and try to clean the gutters,” he said. “If there was something to do, she kind of just did it. She and dad cut the lawn as a team.”
She loved babies. One relative, noticing how expert Mrs. Corey was at soothing children, “always claimed she had a little packet of ether in her shirt, and she could pick up a kid and make them go to sleep right away,” said her son.
“If you had a fussy kid, a colicky kid, grandma would take it into the rocking chair,” said her daughter, Beth Gonzalez. “She would sing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ or “It’s a Small World.’ And I guarantee you, within 15 minutes — out cold.”
Mrs. Corey, 83, died Monday at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey.
She grew up in Blue Island. Her father, Daniel Rubino, was from Italy. Her mother, Julia, emigrated from Poland. Life revolved around St. Donatus Church, which she attended from kindergarten through high school.
An annual highlight was the church’s century-old summer festival, a five-day celebration with homemade pizza, beef and sausage and Italian ice. Today, with an influx of Mexican-Americans, tacos have been added to the menu. The parishioners parade with a statue of St. Donatus. “You pin the money to the statue of St. Donatus as they walk it down the street,” her son said.
After high school, she worked as a bank teller in Blue Island and saved enough money to buy her own car. She christened it “Old Bessie.”’ She enjoyed classic radio programs like the supernatural “Lights Out,” and comedy by Bob and Ray. Like many women of her generation, she waited for neighbors and classmates to return from World War II or Korea — sometimes, both.
In 1956, she married Robert, a fellow Blue Islander. Even on her wedding day, she was practical. She walked down the aisle in horn-rimmed glasses. Mrs. Corey never explored getting contacts.
For decades, she was a stay-at-home mom. Mrs. Corey was devastated by the assassination of John F. Kennedy, feeling a kinship with the nation’s first Roman Catholic president. Later in life, she worked as a teller again, at Thornridge State Bank in Dolton.
She enjoyed mysteries by Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock’s chilling TV show. She liked the singing of Deanna Durbin, Mario Lanza and Mahalia Jackson. Favorite movies included “The Song of Bernadette,” “The Ten Commandments” and “The Blues Brothers.” She liked Elvis Presley when he did gospel and Willie Nelson when he sang “Stardust.”
When the other kids were grown and her youngest, Chris, was still at home, they went on a family vacation out West. In Jackson, Wyoming, they stumbled on location filming of a Clint Eastwood movie, “Any Which Way You Can.” She spoke often of her delight at spotting Eastwood. “My dad liked him a little less after she talked about him so much,” their son said.
Mrs. Corey liked to cruise Facebook to keep up with friends and relatives. She was not amused at images of people showing off new tattoos or drinking from red Solo cups. Anyone who considered blocking her had to consider a worrisome familial rumor: being deprived of her homemade doughnuts and bread sticks.
Relatives who were going through hard times received notes and cards from Mrs. Corey to let them know a mass was being said for them. “She always had time to talk — ‘Sure, c’mon in.’ She’d feed you,” her daughter said.
In addition to her son and daughter, Mrs. Corey is survived by two more daughters, Christy Corey and Laurie Gilmak; another son son, Scott; a sister, Mary Anne Clairmont, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Visitation is 3 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Vandenberg Funeral Home, 17248 S. Harlem, Tinley Park. A funeral Mass is scheduled at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church, 880 E. 154th St., South Holland. Burial is to follow at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery.