AUBURNDALE, Mass. — Betty Brockway Dowling, 95, formerly of South Portland and most recently of Auburndale, Massachusetts, died Feb. 19.
She was born in Pittsburgh on Oct. 8, 1920, the daughter of Ezra Smith Brockway and Emily Thiede Brockway. Dowling graduated from Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, NewYork, in 1938, received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, magna cum laude, from Hofstra College in 1942 and a master’s in psychology from Columbia University in 1946. Her thesis explored the psychological roots of bigotry, an interest ignited by the Jim Crow injustice she witnessed in Miami, where her husband, a naval officer, was stationed during World War II. She remained a lifelong champion of social justice.
Dowling and her husband, Robert J. Dowling, were high school sweethearts who eloped during their senior year at Hofstra. Following World War II they lived on Long Island, New York. In 1957, the family moved to Orange, Connecticut, where Dowling studied child development at the Gesell Institute in New Haven.
In 1960 the couple moved to the Boston area, where they owned gift shops and Viennese Operetta Records. In the mid-1980s they moved to Maine, living in Brunswick, Portland and South Portland.
In the 1990s the Dowlings opened a shop in the Maine Mall, selling gifts and collectibles. In 1999 they moved back to Massachusetts and settled in Auburndale with their daughter.
Dowling lived her principles by reaching out to people in need with empathy, compassion and practical help. She was particularly touched by children with developmental difficulties and those who struggle with mental illness or lived with abuse.
She was a voracious reader, a writer of short stories, a movie lover and a lover of beaches and boating. Dowling had an offbeat, highly visual sense of humor, a delightfully contagious laugh and a smile that lit up a room.
She was predeceased by her husband, her son, Robert Jeffrey Dowling, and a brother, Robert E. Brockway.
She is survived by her daughter, Cathy Dowling Norton, of Auburndale, Massachusetts; six grandchildren, Michael Radford, of Sierra Madre, California, Andrew Radford, of Belfast, James Radford, of Haverhill, Massachusetts, Dindy Norton, of Auburndale, Adrian Dowling, of South Portland, and Robert F. Dowling, of Massachusetts and Colombia; three great-grandchildren, Rex Radford, Cooley Radford and Varda Radford.
A gathering to remember and celebrate Dowling’s life and join her ashes with her husband’s will be held at a later date.