In Remembrance: Dorothy “Dottie” McNally (July 5, 1917-August 5, 2016)
In late 1936 Dorothy “Dottie” Dowling began working for the Bach Society which rented space in the Newark Museum. Soon, in early 1937, she was hired to work in the secretarial pool for the Museum itself. In those days, she operated the switchboard, answered telephone calls, took dictation, typed letters, ran the mimeograph machine, among other duties. It was “a smoke-free, lipstick-free, fingernail-polish-free” environment, but it proved to be the beginning of a life-long career.
In 1945, five years after her marriage to George McNally, she became the secretary to the director, a position she held under four different directors until 1970 when she was appointed Assistant to the Director. She retired in 1982 but continued to work as a volunteer until 2004 – 68 years after first coming to the Newark Museum.
According to Mrs. McNally, Miss Winser, the first director she worked for, was “a vivacious woman – rather robust – a dear woman.” “I loved working with her – once I got used to her – it took some doing!” Miss Kendall, the second director, was “a shy, quiet New England type, reserved and tight.” She retired after only a year and was succeeded by Miss Coffey who “had a whole different approach to things.” An “outgoing” woman, very active in professional organizations, Miss Coffey encouraged Mrs. McNally to expand her knowledge of museum administration, and she, thereafter, assumed responsibility over several projects designed to improve the physical spaces of the Museum.
Under Director Samuel C. Miller, after her promotion to Assistant to the Director, Mrs. McNally become one of his “triumvirate”. She was in charge of personnel, buildings and grounds, city and state budgets, and special capital projects. In particular, she was responsible for overseeing the first restoration of the Ballantine House in 1976. “No major crisis or minor detail in the museum escaped her assiduous attention or the exercise of her unfailing energy,” Miller declared at the time of her retirement. “Her loyal devotion, sound judgment, and personal concern for people have been invaluable to our operations.”
In the words of Director Emerita Mary Sue Sweeney Price: “Dottie was an exemplar of that generation, shaped by the Great Depression and World War II, which took nothing for granted. She personified loyalty and devotion, and valued family – including her museum family. That she accomplished so much speaks volumes about her innate intelligence and common sense. Nor will we ever forget her sly wit and generous sense of humor.”
On August 5 Dorothy McNally passed away at the age of 99. Trustees, staff, and members – the entire Newark Museum community – have lost “a marvel far greater than her diminutive stature, and central to the success of our beloved museum,” as Mrs. Price put it so eloquently.
– William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian
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