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Dorothy Hayes, mom of Billy Hayes, subject of film 'Midnight Express,' dies at 91

Dorothy Hayes, left, is seen with her son

Dorothy Hayes, left, is seen with her son Billy Hayes in this undated photo. She died died Monday, June 1, 2015, in West Islip at 91. Photo Credit: Courtesy Billy Hayes

Dorothy Hayes, the mother of Billy Hayes, a North Babylon man whose attempt to smuggle hashish out of Turkey led to imprisonment in that country, a daring escape and Hollywood fame, died Monday in West Islip. She was 91.

The cause was a heart ailment, her son said. Dorothy Hayes had spent several days receiving treatment in Good Samaritan Medical Center, where she died.

Hayes, also known as Dotty, was steadfast in her support for her son after his 1970 arrest at an Istanbul airport with more than 4 pounds of hash strapped to his waist. The 23-year-old, a graduate of Seton Hall High School in Patchogue who had dropped out of Marquette University, became a pawn in United States-Turkish relations and a subject of international fascination. A nighttime escape from an island prison in 1975 paved the way for a bestselling memoir, "Midnight Express," and an Oliver Stone movie with the same title.

Dorothy Hayes' husband, William Hayes, was often the public face of the family; but through it all, Billy Hayes said, his mother was "the heart." A lifelong Catholic, she began attending Mass several times a week to pray for her son at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Lindenhurst.

She and her husband mortgaged their North Babylon home to pay for their son's legal expenses during his imprisonment. They also bankrolled his escape, concealing 27 hundred-dollar bills in a family photo album given to him on a prison visit.

Beyond the half-joking, half-earnest wish that her son become a dentist, Dorothy Hayes rarely expressed doubt over his choices, Billy Hayes said, a subject he discusses in a one-man show called "Riding the Midnight Express."

"It's still the hardest thing to talk about, the pain that I brought" his parents, he said. "I wasn't thinking about anybody but myself. "

Dorothy Hayes, nee Smith, was born in the Bronx on Nov. 11, 1923, into a large Irish Catholic family. She attended St. Anselm School in the Bronx, where she met her future husband in ninth grade. They were married from 1946 until his death five years ago.

In addition to Billy Hayes of Los Angeles, Dorothy Hayes is survived by another son, Robert of Coral Springs, Florida, and a daughter, Peggy Turri of West Islip.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:45 a.m. Friday at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Babylon.

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