52 Ancestors: Before Her Time – A Woman of the 21st Century

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza

Dorothy Furlani with her brother, William Furlani, my father abt. 1941

Dorothy Furlani with her brother, William Furlani, my father abt. 1941

For this week’s theme, I just had to highlight one of my favorite aunts and the only maiden aunt I could find, Dorothy [Dot] A. Furlani, who was born on 15 October 1913 in Connersville, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Candido (Condy) Furlani and Anna Bianchi. One of three children, she had an older brother, William, my father, and a younger brother, Robert.

I found her college yearbooks online. She attended Penn State, living in State College, Centre County, Pennsylvania from 1932 until she graduated in 1935. A member of the Theta Phi Alpha sorority, she was active in basketball and track.

Dot first appeared in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania records, around 1940, with a listing in the city directory and the 1940 US census. She was employed as a sales clerk in a department store. By 1946, she was a steno-clerk with the State of Pennsylvania. She remained employed by the State until her retirement.

I have very fond memories of my Aunt Dot. She lived a full life, and although, she never married, I would never have called her a spinster–the image did not fit her.

Bob and Dot in Harrisburg in the 1950s

Bob and Dot in Harrisburg in the 1950s

She had a partner whom I called Uncle Bob. Bob and Dot remained together as a couple with separate residences until his death. I don’t remember Bob’s last name, but he drove a train (engineer), which I thought was cool. I also don’t remember her last two partners, except that the last one out-lived her.

Once, my sister and I stayed with her for a week. It was fantastic. Aunt Dot and Uncle Bob took us to our first country fair, where we saw live animals that we could touch (no petting zoos back then). Another excursion was to Hershey Park.

One day she took us to her office building. We had never been in a high rise building before and spent the day riding up and down the elevator. We had been in stores with an escalator, but this was our first time riding in an elevator. It doesn’t take much to make kids happy.

Dot was a serious smoker and drinker. During this trip, many visits to her friends’ homes gave us ample proof of this. Except for the smoking, she would have been very much at home in the 21st century. As I said, she loved life and broke the mores of the times, living the life she chose.

My aunt Dot died of lung cancer on 23 October 1982 in Middletown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, at the age of sixty-nine. She is buried in Saint Pater’s cemetery in Mount Carmel with her parents.


The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Maiden Aunt.

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4 Responses to 52 Ancestors: Before Her Time – A Woman of the 21st Century

  1. Anne Myers says:

    What a lovely story! Your Aunt Dot sounds like quite an interesting person, independent and well educated, with a zest for life. I’m glad she shared it with you, and you with us.

  2. Luanne says:

    Can’t help but wonder if you found any story/reason behind her maintaining a separate residence but not marrying him. I always wonder about the hidden stories :)!

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