Happy 91st, Dot!

Dot Aronson is a good example of a tried and true New Englander. Born and raised in Malden, a mid-sized city outside of Boston, she spent most of her life in Massachusetts and Maine, where she completed her undergraduate studies.

She and her brother, Frank, just 13 months younger than Dot, were raised by parents Walter and Elsa in Malden, immigrants from Northern Ireland and Germany, respectively. Malden was a “wonderful town with great schools and a beautiful library.” Malden’s claim to fame is it is the town where Converse sneakers were invented. The library where Dot spent a lot of her youth was in fact built by Mr. Converse, recalled Dot.

Growing up in her grandmother’s house in Malden after their father was killed in a car accident, Dot remembers her early years as ones that required she and her brother to be quiet. “You didn’t drop a block on the floor or rollerskate in the driveway,” she said of her grandmother’s strict rules stemming from her years as a German governess.

When Dot was three-years-old, her mother took the children to visit her native Germany, returning again for another visit when Dot was 10 years old and World War II was just starting. Her mother did not want to stay in Germany and the family returned to Malden. Between her mother’s native German and the years they spent there, Dot was proficient at a young age in German, although it did not come easy to her. She graduated from high school at age 16 and enrolled at Colby College in Maine where she majored in German.

After college, Dot returned to Malden and took over the high school German department, although she was not yet 21 years old. She went back to Germany on a youth hostel bike trip after the war was over and ended up enrolling at Tubingen University in Germany where she furthered her studies in German literature and culture getting a master’s degree.

Dot met her husband, Jim Aronson, in college, dating for seven years throughout college and his stint in the military after graduation. The couple married and settled in Medfield, Massachusetts. Jim was a chemist and owned his own textile company, succeeding at the very end of the New England textile boom before the mills closed and moved south for cheaper labor. Dot was a substitute teacher in English and history, raising the couple’s children, Jay, Peter, Martin and Eric. She later went on to teach at the local German Club, teaching adults the language at night and children on Saturdays, supplementing with folk dancing and chorus classes.

“The most adventurous thing we did was build our own house where we lived for 60 years,” said Dot of “Arohill,” the home the couple designed and built together. “There was always sawdust, the noise of the shopsmith,” she said. “But we loved it.” The house was modern in design, tucked away in the country in Medfield, about 15 miles outside of Boston. Dot was active as a curator for the Medfield Historical Society and very involved raising the couple’s four children.

Three years ago, Dot’s daughter Jay brought her to look at Camphill Ghent. She moved in shortly after and has been in Zephyr House ever since. “It’s the end of the world,” she said of her view of the gardens and hills. “It’s private and quiet and it almost seems biblical,” she said. Her favorite spot is the gazebo where she enjoys the views of the hills.

Since she arrived at Camphill Ghent, Dot has become increasingly involved in the activities available. She enjoys poetry and painting classes, current events and the concerts. When she is not participating in an activity, Dot has five grandchildren and one great-grandchild and enjoys keeping in touch with her family. “It’s very cheerful and pleasant here. I love it,” said Dot. And, she remains a New Englander at heart. “I love the four seasons and I love every one of them. I love the New England thing.”