“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” James 1:17
Shrewsbury – Dorothy K. (Ankstutis) Tonelli, adored wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend, died on April 8, 2021. Dorothy was the fifth of five children born to Lithuanian immigrants, Eva and Bernard Ankstutis, in Worcester. She was born on May 1, 1927, and died, in the midst of the bustle, adoration, and love of her children and a full and happy family home.
The meaning of Dorothy’s name, “Gift of God,” carried truth from the start. At the age of 6, she began attending morning Mass every day on her own. She went on to love God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength all the days of her life. Dorothy’s beautiful personality of cheerfulness, steadiness, and perpetual optimism in the face of any obstacle or adversity was a testimony to her faith. She thanked God every day for the many blessings He bestowed on her and her family. During the nine decades of her life, every time the Name of Jesus was spoken, she bowed her head in honor and reverence.
Dorothy attended St. Casimir Elementary School and graduated from Ascension High School in Worcester. A humble, beautiful teenager of faith, she also set trends: during high school, Dorothy and her friend became the sole cheerleaders for St. John’s High School, where she also starred in plays. A photograph of Dorothy playing the role of the daughter of a King, in “The Queen’s Husband,” in 1945, is displayed in the halls of the school today.
Following high school, she worked as administrative assistant to the Clerk of Courts in Worcester, Phillip Smith, who arranged for the purchase of her first car. She then took her first of many road trips to Florida in the middle of a snowstorm in 1946.
Dorothy’s love of the beach carried an unexpected blessing. During one of her vacations to Hampton, N.H., she met the love of her life, Ed, who spotted her on the beach, playing cards. Their lifetime attraction and shared values and humor were obvious from the start, and they married soon after. Dorothy then devoted her life to being a loving, conscientious, and prayerful wife and mother.
She encouraged her children to enjoy all life had to offer, and, although Lithuanian by birth, she quickly adopted the Italian ways and became an outstanding chef. She enjoyed many trips to Italy with her husband after having taught herself conversational Italian.
Dorothy was an excellent embroiderer, knitter, and seamstress, making winsome costumes and clothes for her children. She brought fun and charm to all events, sharing her appreciation for the talent of various singers and artists. She had a passion for reading the classics, from Plato’s Dialogues to Pride and Prejudice, and for continuing knowledge of nutrition and health.
Dorothy was the epicenter of her family and their faith, the ear that would listen, the safe place to pour out your heart and talk, and the one to add encouragement and laughter to any conversation. She taught her children to love and honor God.
Dorothy enjoyed the camaraderie of her lifelong childhood friends; her Shrewsbury, Cape Cod, and Maine friends; her Rosary group at St. Mary’s Church in Shrewsbury; and her groups at Pleasant Valley Country Club, Worcester Country Club, and Bear Lakes Country Club in Florida, where she and Ed lived during winter months.
Dorothy’s love for her husband flourished for 65 years. They made each other laugh hard, shared romantic and joyful moments, and were deeply in love until their very last days. Ed died on Dec. 26, 2020. One hundred and three days later, they were together again in Heaven.
Dorothy leaves behind her daughter, Judith Tonelli-Brown and her husband, Matthew Brown; her daughter, Dr. Jodie Chapin and her husband, Todd Chapin; her daughter, Jill Tonelli; and her son, Dr. Edward Tonelli, Jr. She leaves her adoring grandchildren: Trevor Brown and his wife, Meghan Brown; Tobin Brown and his fiancée, Vanessa Colombi; Juliet Chapin; and Augustus Chapin. She also leaves her great-granddaughter, Amelia Brown; her nephew, Thomas Shilale; and many other nephews and nieces. She was predeceased by her husband of 65 years, Edward P. Tonelli, Sr.; her two sisters, her beloved Tillie Shilale and Ruth Ankstutis; and her two brothers, Albert Ankstutis and John Andrews.
Dorothy had a special affection and a tender gratitude for her helpers, whose beautiful personalities, outstanding care, and above-and-beyond gestures of kindness showered her daily life with sparkles of light, hope, and love.
Everything Dorothy did was with excellence and with calm. She leaves a legacy of commitment, optimism, faith, and love. Dorothy, “Gift of God.” She was one of the greatest gifts God could have ever given us.
Every time one of us left your house, you stood at the door and watched us go. Thank you for allowing us the honor of standing and watching you go, Mom, until you were safely home with God.
“…A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” Proverbs 31:30
Donations may be made in lieu of flowers, to Notre Dame Hospice, 555 Plantation St., Worcester, MA 01605.
A Mass will be celebrated to honor the lives of Dorothy and Edward Tonelli after mandates are lifted.