Leominster - Dorothy Leone (Welch) Proietti, a resident of Leominster since childhood, died May 25, 2020, at Life Care Center after contracting the COVID-19 virus and pneumonia. She was 92.
Born May 4, 1928, in Skowhegan, Maine, she was orphaned when her mother, Gladys (Smith) Welch, died of tuberculosis at age 27 when Dorothy was just 4. Dorothy and her four siblings ending up in separate foster families after initially being cared for by their maternal grandmother until her death in 1936.
Dorothy was eventually taken in at about age 10 by Leominster photographer, picture frame maker and farmer Percy Johnson and his wife, Ethel, who were childless at age 62 and 54, respectively.
She spent the next decade living with the Johnsons on their 40-acre farm on Fall Brook Avenue, now Pennacook Drive, adjacent to Route 117 (Lancaster Street) in a home built circa 1787.
The Johnsons’ sedate lifestyle was forever changed when Dorothy married John Proietti, a World War II Navy veteran and fellow member of the Leominster High School Class of 1947, on June 4, 1949, at St. Anna’s Catholic Church.
Dorothy loved the big, outgoing Proietti family and wasted no time making it larger when she and John had their first of six children 14 months after their marriage. Grammy and Grampy Johnson became doting grandparents and were instrumental in bettering the lives of the children.
The Proiettis had at least one child living with them for the next 34 years and, as Dorothy aged, she took comfort from her children remaining close to each other. “Aunt Dot” was so adept at fitting into the extended family that some nieces and nephews were shocked as adults to learn that she had no Italian heritage.
She worked in quality control at Foster Grant for many years, retiring from the sunglass manufacturer in 1989. She served as an AFL-CIO union steward and was a longtime polling volunteer at election time. She was an active member of Leominster's former Italian-American Club, past president of the St. Anna Society women’s ministry and a gifted Scrabble player right up until the end. She put everyone else first for many years, helping with her children's scouting and athletic activities. She became a grandmother for the first time at 42 and the final time at 65.
She is survived by John, her husband of nearly 71 years; children Michael (Laura), Linda Grossi (Richard) and Deborah Carbone (Joseph), all of Leominster, John Jr. (Barbara) of Ashby and Matthew (Varina) of Penn Valley, California; 14 grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her eldest son, Paul, in 2019; her birth parents; foster parents; and siblings Marie Burnell of Arlington, Mass., Alice Cantara of Manchester, N.H., Joan Silveri of Weirton, W.Va., and Charles of Maine.
A private memorial mass is planned at St. Anna's, which Dorothy attended until she moved in 2019 into Life Care Center, where she felt at home due to the generous care shown to her.
Wright-Roy Funeral Home, Inc., 109 West Street, Leominster is directing arrangements.
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