Dorothy MacWilliams

Dorothy MacWilliams (Vogt)

Friday March 26, 1920 - Friday April 17, 2020
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Dorothy “Dot” MacWilliams died Friday, April 17, at Barclay Friends in West Chester, 12 days after testing positive for COVID-19 and 22 days after reaching her 100th birthday.

Dorothy Elizabeth Vogt was born March 26, 1920, the seventh of nine children in a poor but rollicking Scotch-Irish and German family in South Philadelphia. As a young girl she attended services at Snyder Avenue Congregational Church in Philadelphia, where she was one of a group of a dozen girls who founded the “Tip-Toppers” club. Bonds of friendship that endured for more than seventy years were formed, and she remained a member and supported that church for the rest of her life.

Raised amidst hardship during the Great Depression, she left school in the ninth grade to work in a greeting card factory, and, at 21, married Walter “Walt” MacWilliams, a young man from South Philly who had been born into a large, poor Scotch-Irish and German family three days before her. He had caught her fancy when she passed by a local bicycle repair shop and overheard him whistling “The Very Thought of You,” which became their life-long love song.

Walt enlisted in the Navy and was a sailor stationed in Jacksonville, FL during World War II, while Dot tended to their two young daughters, Diane and Bonnie, born a year apart, and, eight years later, a son, Bruce.

In 1960, the family moved from their row house in South Philly to a white clapboard house with a tidy yard in Wenonah, New Jersey, a bucolic one-square-mile town which Dot considered her true home. Walt died suddenly in 1974 at age 54, leaving Dot, who had devoted her entire adult life to being a wife and mother, to figure out her second act as a widow.

Over the next several decades, Dot proved herself to be fiercely independent while having a fun-loving, adventurous streak, traveling to see the pyramids in Egypt, sledding with her grandchildren, and buying a modest but comfortable summer house in Ocean City, NJ that served as a gathering place for her large circle of friends and family for 20 years. Dot loved riding bikes on the boardwalk, taking long walks on the beach, over-indulging her sweet tooth, and sunbathing without sunscreen until her many freckles seemed to blend together.

Back in Wenonah, she spent her time volunteering – sewing bandages (then called “cancer dressings”), shopping for the blind, aiding a physically disabled child in her neighborhood – living simply and frugally on her late husband’s pension. She enjoyed playing cards (sometimes poker, for pennies), watching TV (Lawrence Welk, Phillies baseball), and swimming at the Woodbury YMCA with her lady friends. Dot was also an engaging and faithful pen pal, providing loved ones with a stream of entertaining missives in handwritten letters, and later, when she was in her eighties, by email.

By 2003 she had moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania to live in a mother-in-law suite but was still a Jersey girl at heart, forever loyal to “Jersey tomatoes” and “Jersey corn.” While she outlived her siblings and nearly all of her friends, she derived great pleasure from her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, enjoying the role of matriarch at frequent family events, where her famous “mac & cheese” was a favorite. She remained active, continuing to drive and swimming regularly at ACAC in West Chester well into her nineties.

After suffering a stroke in 2015, she was cared for at home by her daughter and son-in-law until 2018 when she entered Barclay Friends, where she received loving and exceptional nursing care until the time of her death.

She is survived by her three children, Diane MacWilliams, Bonnie Saddic (Ted), and Bruce MacWilliams (Margie), as well as seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Services are postponed due to the pandemic.

Memorial donations may be made to Snyder Avenue Congregational Church, 300 Snyder Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19148 or to Barclay Friends, 700 North Franklin Street, West Chester, PA 19380.
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Service Details

  • Interment

    Wenonah Cemetery
    Address Not Available
    Mantua, NJ 08051
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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Private Condolence


Posted at 09:06pm
Gram loved to cook/prepare food and these pics really show that! She looks so happy and that makes me smile! I remember how she made a hot milk cake every week (by heart - no need for a recipe) and how it made her house smell so delicious! Her mac n cheese was always a hit and she would always tell people who asked for the recipe: don't be stingy with the cheese!

Robin Subers Posted at 08:44am

All wonderful pictures and memories, Erika...I enjoyed reading them all! Thank you for sharing xoxo


Posted at 08:52pm
Grandpop and Gram were such a beautiful couple and this pic truly shows that! Growing up, I lived three houses down the street from Grandpop and Gram so I fortunately got to spend a lot of time with them. I have such fond memories of my Gram taking baby Marnee for walks in the stroller and allowing me to tag along. Sometimes she would stop at Margie's Carriage Stop candy store and buy me a treat! Such wonderful, loving memories


Posted at 08:30pm
I was thinking of things that Gram loved and I remember that she loved swimming/swimnastics, Florida, and dogs (among many other things). So these pics are from her visits to Big Pine Key, FL...the first pic is of the two of us in the hot tub - we had so much fun and Gram was like a fish in water! On one of her trips to Big Pine, she didn't even wait for Jim to drop the boat's anchor before taking her hearing aids out and jumping into the water. Unfortunately, her leg hit the boat ladder as she kicked away and that ended her time in the water, as she needed stitches in her shin!
We enjoyed going to dinner (2nd pic) and also spending time outside on the porch. The house is elevated with a catwalk around it so that we can easily close the storm shutters, but Gram liked it because she could walk around the house in the comfortably narrow space and hold onto the railings. Gram walked back and forth so many times throughout the day, telling us she was getting her exercise!
Gram also loved dogs - schnauzers were her favorites - but she loved all of them and she really hit it off with our little chihuahua, Mia (3rd pic), who enjoyed cuddling with gram during her visits. The 3rd pic is also a beautiful pic of Gram with her daughter and my mother, Diane.


Posted at 05:28pm
Gram loved to laugh and these pics really show that! Although Dara probably just told Gram something silly in the first pic! In the second pic, Gram is sitting with Aunt Sis, her best friend from childhood, and her older sister, Cass. Gram would tell stories of how she and Aunt Sis never stopped laughing when they were young...she said that they thought it was hysterically funny to kick over trashcans and run! She said that they often got kicked out of the movie theater because their nonstop laughing was such a disturbance! Gram would even start laughing when she was telling the stories! :) The second pic also includes my Uncle Ted!


Posted at 05:06pm
These are a few scenes from one of many MacWilliams' parties! This was in 2014 in Big Pine Key, Florida and I love the pics of Gram and Marnee dancing, the "Gram Sandwich" Marnee and I made, and the one of Gram, Diane, and me!

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