Dorothy Wysocki

100 Years Loved

Pam Gardner, left, assists Wysocki as she speaks with her family in Ireland via Zoom.

Cary resident and Irish expat Dorothea “Dorothy” Wysocki turned 100 years old on Dec. 5 — but in her mind, she’s simply 18 with 82 years of experience.

Bite-size sandwiches, shortbread cookies, and scones were served alongside Wysocki’s preferred brand of tea — Red Rose.

“I asked what turning 100 means to her, and she said, ‘I’m not going to be 100; I’m only 96,’” laughed Brenda Schwab, Wysocki’s friend and power of attorney. “She doesn’t like a big splash, never likes to be the center of attention.”

Schwab, who first met Dorothy in 2003, describes Dorothy as “reserved and conservative” — but when surrounded by family and friends, Wysocki’s quick wit and Irish charm soon rise to the surface.

“Do you remember your dog Sandy?” Asked a family member on Zoom, having called in from Ireland for her centennial celebration. “What was Sandy?”

“Sandy was a dog, of course,” Wysocki answered, a cheeky little smile on her face. Well, you can’t argue with that!

Wysocki’s birthday was celebrated with high tea at Woodland Terrace Retirement Community in Cary — a first rate affair with three-tiered silver platters, scones and clotted cream, a harpist, and fascinators perched on the heads of many attendees. Only the best for the lady of the hour!

The theme was inspired by a past visit to The Umstead for High Tea — a tradition that can be hard to find on this side of the pond.

Brenda Schwab shows Wysocki’s family one of many family pictures decorating the room.

“That’s one of my favorite memories with Dorothy,” said Schwab of her visit to the Umstead. “They had a harpist there, and while we were having tea she told me that if we were in Ireland, there would be a three-tiered silver platter. No sooner than those words left her lips, and someone was coming around with a three-tiered tray with all the sandwiches and desserts on it. Her smile was huge. She was so excited to see that. ‘Oh good, they know how to do tea,’ she said.”

Despite having lived in the States since 1957, tea time remained a staple in Wysocki’s life. Her preferred brand? Red Rose.

“We would have tea at 3:30, and she would bake a yummy dessert to go with it,” recalled Schwab. “I would try to move it to 2:30 p.m., but she wasn’t having it — tea always happened at 3:30 p.m.”

Born into an affluent area of Belfast, Ireland, Wysocki met her late husband, Bill Wysocki, when he visited Ireland in the late 1940s. In 1957, Wysocki got married and moved to the United States, working as a secretary at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington, DC.

“Her typing skills, learned at Belfast College of Technology, stood her in good stead, and they were second to none,” recalled her niece, Catherine Hammond. “Her letters were full of news about her life in America, her garden, her exercise regime and recipes (all typed), and maybe a newspaper cutting or two about the weather.”

During the party, a harpist played some of Wysocki’s favorite Irish tunes.

During her time in the country’s capital, Wysocki met and shook hands with President Ford, who she described as “a very nice man, much nicer than his predecessor.” In 1992, Wysocki and her husband retired to Cary.

“They chose Cary because it was quiet and not as hectic as DC,” said Schwab. “She used to enjoy going to the Cary Library every week on Academy Street, and she liked Cary’s proximity to Raleigh so she could enjoy the symphony and other special events. Another area she took advantage of was travel; she used RDU to travel to Ireland every other year up until 10 years ago. Her last excursion was a cruise to the Caribbean in 2003, accompanied by one of her friends from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.”

Following her husband’s passing in 1993, Wysocki continued to make a life for herself on Melanie Lane near downtown Cary — enjoying the diversity of restaurants, tending her garden, and spreading her money around to seven different banks around town! She continued to live on her own until 2014. After a stint at Jordan Oaks, she made the final move to Woodland Terrace in 2022.

Dorothy shakes the hand of President Ford.

It’s only a select few who live to the ripe old age of 100, so when this petite Irish woman in our community hit this milestone, we had to know more.

Does longevity run in the family?

According to her family in Ireland, it doesn’t seem to. Her mother and father both passed away young, but her sister, Eileen, passed in 2020 at the age of 92.

What’s the secret to long life?

Wysocki has one word for all of us youngsters: moderation. According to Schwab, Wysocki says she didn’t take risks, didn’t go to extremes, and has no regrets (in other words, Dorothy doesn’t condone your plans to skydive or swim with sharks).

What are you most proud of?

“The thing that she’s most proud of is the fact that she has had a long, calm, and pleasant life with no major crisis,” said Schwab. “She feels fortunate to have made it this far in good health.”

Congratulations, Dorothy! May your 100th year be as extraordinary as you are.

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