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Dorothea Eileen Culhane, 87, ‘den mother’ of Bronx neighborhood, dies

Dorothea Eileen Culhane, known as the "den mother

Dorothea Eileen Culhane, known as the "den mother of the neighborhood" in the Bronx when her children were growing up, died Thursday in Florida. She was 87. Credit: Handout

Dorothea Eileen Culhane, her children recalled, was the “den mother of the neighborhood” as they were growing up in the Bronx.

She was the family matriarch who kept the campaign staff for her husband, Thomas, fed nightly when he was winning races for the state Assembly in the 1970s.

Culhane, 87, who spent much of her life in the Bronx, but summered for decades in Long Beach and lived there for seven years before superstorm Sandy, died Thursday in Lutz, Florida, where she resided in her final years.

She died surrounded by family at a hospital after complications arose when she broke her hip a week earlier.

“Our house was like the community center for the neighborhood,” said her son Terry, of Oakdale, a retired MTA deputy police chief, who was one of nine children. His brother Thomas, of the Bronx, said their mother was popular in the neighborhood.

“We and our friends would play ball in the backyard all day. . . . Afterward our mother would feed everyone sausage heroes and Kool-Aid,” he said. “Our friends would hang out with her even if we weren’t there.”

While she was not directly involved in her husband’s politicking, Terry Culhane also said his mother would feed 30 to 40 campaign volunteers nightly during the fall election campaigns.

“She cooked massive meals and the multitudes came,” Terry Culhane said.

Despite her large brood, Culhane’s children said their mom always had time to give them individual attention.

“She was always a good listener and always there to do homework with all of us.”

Family members described their mother as a voracious reader. She was also a highly competitive Scrabble player and for much of her life played almost daily. She also loved dancing, bowling and in her later years, going to the casinos.

Born in the Bronx, Culhane, whose maiden name was Kuhn, met her future husband while both were students at St. Joseph’s Elementary School there. She later graduated from Cathedral High School, also in the Bronx. The couple married at age 20, just before her husband joined the Marine Corps in 1949. They were married for 30 years but later divorced. One child, John, predeceased them.

Her ex-husband died in September. During his career, he served as an NYPD detective, spent two terms as a state lawmaker and worked as a lawyer. He was later a member of the State Commission of Investigation, which in 1990 issued a scathing report on Suffolk law enforcement corruption after a two-year probe.

Other survivors include sons Stephen, of Island Park, and Matthew, of Howard Beach; daughters Christine Lichte, of Lutz, Florida, Beth Ann Robins of upstate North Salem, Barbara Mullaney of Long Beach and Karen Marini of Toms River, New Jersey; two brothers, John and Gerry Kuhn, both of Boston; two sisters, Barbara Peel of Ormond Beach, Florida, and Patricia Wissell of northern New Jersey, as well as 24 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

A wake is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. today and from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at Christopher Jordan Funeral Home in Island Park. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Timothy Roman Catholic Church, 17512 Lakeshore Road, Lutz, FL 33558.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Ignatius the Martyr Roman Catholic Church in Long Beach. Burial will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in upstate Valhalla.

CORRECTION: Culhane’s first name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

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