Dorothy Valenti's strong will and good heart guided her through 62 years of marriage and the raising of three boys. The woman whom everyone called "Dot" gathered trophies for her bowling skills and her ability to shoot a pistol on a range. Her tenacity served her well through the health problems of her final years, family members said.
Dorothy Frances Valenti, 81, of Baldwin, died Monday in a rehabilitation center in Freeport. The funeral was Friday at Towers Funeral Home in Oceanside, followed by interment at Pinelawn Cemetery. In addition to her husband and sons, she is survived by six grandchildren.
"My mother had an unyielding sense of fairness and right and wrong," said her eldest son, Newsday reporter John Valenti III, 58, of Elmhurst, Queens.
Dorothy Valenti was born in Bushwick, Brooklyn, only a few blocks away from the man she would later marry. Her husband, John Valenti Jr., said she was the girl who delivered Girl Scout Cookies to his home.
In the fall of 1955, the two came together on a blind date planned for two couples. Her date didn't show.
"We struck up a conversation and it was nonstop from there," said John Valenti Jr., 84.
Marriage came about six months later, while Valenti Jr. was serving in the Air Force in Florida. Shortly thereafter, the couple moved to Tucson, Arizona, when he was transferred, where they fell in love with Southwestern living. Even after returning to New York around 1957, the Valentis returned often to that part of the country to visit the mountains, vistas and national parks.
"She had a bedrock of common sense," her husband said. "She was very compassionate."
The Valentis moved to Baldwin in 1975. She stayed at home while raising the three boys, her husband said. When he was a teacher and bowling coach at August Martin High School in Jamaica, Queens, she took up the sport and excelled. She became the best bowler in the family, regularly winning local titles with a low-to-mid 200s bowling average, he said.
Her youngest child recalled how much he loved his mother's cooking.
"She could make anything — restaurant quality," said Robert Valenti, 51, of Franklin Square. "She would make whoopie pies from scratch."
Her sons recalled the magical feeling of walking into their mother's kitchen with the smell of tomato sauce, filled with pork sausage and veal, simmering on the stove.
With their father working two jobs at times, their mother expanded her role with the children. Robert recalled fishing and playing catch with mom.
For Jim Valenti, the middle child who considers himself to be the mellower of the three boys, the memories turn to playing card games such as gin rummy and putting together puzzles with his mother.
"I had a paper route, but I wasn't the best paperboy," said Jim Valenti, 56, of Garden City. "She would drive me if it was raining or snowing or dark out or I was complaining about it."
As the boys got older, she took jobs as a typesetter with Pennysaver and a report preparer for Tauscher Cronacher in Rockville Centre.
Husband and wife also shared a love of target shooting. He competed in local tournaments and taught a class on pistol shooting in Uniondale; she ingratiated herself among the mostly male shooters. She became good enough to qualify for the Empire State Games.
Dorothy Valenti was among a few women on an Empire State Games bus trip when some members of a boys basketball team, also riding the bus, started teasing them about being on a sports bus, John Valenti III said.
"She told them she was on the women's pistol shooting team," he said. "That shut them up immediately."
Valenti's strength of heart was perhaps most tested by the health problems she battled with in recent years, family members said. She had hip and knee replacements and oral cancer that forced doctors to remove much of her tongue. She had to learn to talk again.
The oral cancer struck in 2013, and one night, weakened by the illness and radiation treatment, she fell and struck her head against a door, family members said. She eventually underwent surgery that left her unable to move her head for the remainder of her life.
"Still, she barged on, going shopping, cooking dinners, getting my dad to take her to casinos," John Valenti III said.
Added his younger brother, Robert: "My Mom was never a quitter."
Their mother left them with lessons they carry to this day, her sons said.
John Valenti III has been a Newsday reporter for 37 years. He credits his mother with teaching him about the importance of the truth and the need to treat people fairly.
He noted that he has written stories that led to jail time for a public official and business leader.
"Both spoke to me after they got out," he said. "That's my mother."