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Award-winning Donora artist turns 100

| Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Centenarian Agnes Dolnack shows one of her paintings to daughter, Patricia Dolnack White, left, and daughter-in-law Joan Dolnack, right.
Emma Jene Lelik | For The Valley Independent
Centenarian Agnes Dolnack shows one of her paintings to daughter, Patricia Dolnack White, left, and daughter-in-law Joan Dolnack, right.
Agnes Dolnack's series of Lenten paintings were on display at St. Dominic Church in 1987.
Agnes Dolnack's series of Lenten paintings were on display at St. Dominic Church in 1987.

Agnes Dolnack of Donora has gained fame in many categories during the past century.

But, without a doubt, it is her artistic talents that are best known.

Her paintings have been admired throughout the region for decades. And the charitable works she donated to her church, St. Dominic, were considered outstanding.

The Rev. Paul Spisak praised the series of banners she painted in 1987 and 1988 depicting the Easter Liturgies.

“Noah's rainbow appears in the first reading on the first Sunday of Lent,” he told his parishioners.

“And Agnes Dolnack depicts the rainbow, a powerful symbol of the union of earth and heaven, in her work.

“Watch for the gradual growth of the rainbow in our sanctuary during the next six weeks of Lent.”

Dolnack spent more than 200 hours painting a series of church banners in 1987 and the rainbow banners in 1988.

As an active member of Valley Art Club, she won many awards in the annual exhibits.

One of her original paintings was purchased by A.W. Robertson, chairman of the board and president of Westinghouse Corp., to hang in his office at 3 Gateway Center, Pittsburgh.

She has taught art classes and served as a professional judge of art exhibits.

A lifelong resident of Donora, she marked her 100th birthday on Sept. 23.

She graduated from Donora High School during the Great Depression in 1932. Her interest in art began in high school and she recalls many study periods spent sketching.

“I still remember the first time I met her,” said daughter-in-law Joan Dolnack of Rostraver Township. “She was standing at her easel and I was so impressed with the beauty of the scene she was painting.”

Daughter Patricia Dolnack White of Manassas, Va., knows her mother well.

“She is an amazing woman. With her talent she can turn anything into a piece of art.”

The family cherishes her gifts of Christmas ornaments made from beads, crochet work and special paintings. They recall her expertise making pirohi and nut rolls.

Her son, Donald, is deceased as are two grandsons, David and Stephen Dolnack. She has three other grandchildren, Laura Lynn White, Kenneth White and Gregory Dolnack.

Her husband, Joseph, died in 1985.

A member of Our Lady of the Valley Parish, she also belongs to the Rosary Society. She was active in the church and many civic organizations during her younger days.

Her quality of life has been enhanced by the loving attention of her caregivers. She feels her longevity is due to being raised on chicken soup and a daily dose of cod liver oil.

“Our family raised chickens and the phone call would come in to the Nicholanco store to tell us the peeps had arrived,” she said.

As for the cod liver oil, she said it didn't actually work.

“My mother tried to fatten me up with the cod liver oil, but I never did gain extra weight,” she said. “I did enjoy the piece of peppermint she gave me afterward to kill the taste!”

Emma Jene Lelik is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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