Our community lost a long standing, loyal member and generous soul just as Covid-19 was overwhelming our psyches. Slight in stature, her size didn’t take away from the impact she created – Phyllis was the matriarch of the Doboszenski family. A year ago this month Phyllis passed away peacefully at home while surrounded by her large, loving family. Her passing, as was her life, was a moment filled with love, just the way she wanted it.
The Doboszenskis – the Beginning
Phyllis’ family has been here since the 1870s. The Oefflings had a family farm in Hamel where Phyllis grew up alongside her five sisters. She was known to say, “I grew up in a loving family. We always worked hard and had great food!” Ken (Kenny) Doboszenski was born in Medina, and grew up in Loretto in a large family consisting of 11 children. Phyllis Oeffling and Kenny Doboszenski met at school, the Academy of Sts. Peter and Paul, formerly known as Sts Peter and Paul Catholic School.
Phyllis and Kenny married when she was 19, then had six kids within eight years between 1962-1970. She had four boys and two girls, Doug, Tim, Randy, Danny, Jody and Jill. In 1977 the couple launched Doboszenski & Sons, an excavation service located in Corcoran where their older sons, Doug, Tim and Randy still work today.
Dobo’s Cafe & Bake Shop
Phyllis, Danny, Jody and Jill began catering for the Lions and other local events in 1985. “We were catering, then the building (on Highway 55 and County Road 19) became available in 1988,” Danny explained. Prior to Dobo’s Cafe & Bakeshop, the building on 4425 Highway 55 in Loretto was home to Critterville, a pet store. “A man owned a car lot across the street, his name was Jim Herlofsky. Jim had bought the building, then rented it out to the pet shop and Sew It All, an alterations business. Jim got tired of renting it out and decided to sell the building, ending the business’ leases. Dobo’s Bakery & Cafe then took over the space, starting by serving breakfast only so their hours were open in the evening for catering events. A social butterfly, Phyllis’ favorite part of owning the cafe was visiting with patrons, she was especially drawn to kids.
Phyllis was known for her great capacity to love and her generous heart. Mrs. Dobo, as she was known to many locals, loved to bake and cook for anyone and everyone. She cooked for the school children for several years at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Loretto.
Never one to sit on the sidelines, Phyllis was a valuable community volunteer. She served on the school board, parish council and funeral committee at Sts. Peter and Paul. Phyllis also took the helm as a cub scout leader and junior softball coach. A lesser known claim to fame was when Phyllis took the “Honey Bees” all the way to win first place at the state tournament.
Not one to look for recognition, Phyllis would prefer to help and pitch in wherever she was needed, foregoing the limelight. “She was so humble!” Jill exclaimed as she described her mom.
The Last Years
Phyllis endured seven hospital visits and five rehab stays between November 2019 and March 2020. Danny painted a picture of his mother with his words, his voice thick with emotion, “She was kind, she loved her family so much, she was very generous with her time. If anyone was sick or died, we had to bring food right away. Those were the values she tried to instill in all of us.” “Anytime we visited mom in the hospital, we brought rolls or cookies,” Jill continued as Danny paused, both of them speaking with equal parts sadness and affection. “Everybody knew us, her chart described her as, ‘the lady who brought rolls.’ Every day someone on the hospital staff would pop their head into her room to thank us. She LOVED the looks of joy on their faces, she wanted to make everyone happy. In fact, one day me and dad were going in with rolls, he had a box and I had two boxes. We got in the elevator with this nurse, and she said, ‘I hope you’re going to floor 3.’ I said, ‘We were there last time, today we’re going to floor 4’ to which she said, ‘Oh shoot.’ When the elevator stopped at floor 3, I said, ‘Here’s a box for your floor.’”The nurse’s face registered confusion as she asked, ‘what?’ to which Jill responded, “‘you go share these with the nurses and doctors.’ The door shut and you know, mom was right, it makes you feel SO GOOD. Mom never needed anything, but she always wanted to give.”
As it became apparent Phyllis was declining, the family created a plan for her closest friends and family members to see her one last time. “We had to limit the number of people who could come,” Jill described her mom’s last days in March 2020. “Many of her friends didn’t feel comfortable visiting due to health issues and covid, and we understood. Mom didn’t need a lot of attention, she was a real private person. It was good and just what she would have wanted. We had her in her family room, she loved her house.” Danny added, “We had to ask family and close friends to come in hour shifts due to the pandemic.” Jill continued, “Mom passed away in her bed on a beautiful day. We all were there right in her room, we had a mass for her there and afterwards we had rosaries.” “At 7:30 her breathing changed a lot,” Danny said. “We all went into the bedroom and said a rosary. Mom knew what was going on. She was never in a coma, she was with us the entire time.” “We did one last prayer, her favorite – The Memorare, and she passed.” Jill’s voice broke. After gaining her composure, she continued, “When we opened her health care directive afterwards, we found the question, ‘How would you like to die?’ and her answer was, ‘I would like to be at home surrounded by my family praying.’ She got her wish.”
A Funeral During Covid-19
Following her funeral service at home on March 27, the procession of vehicles brought Phyllis through the intersection of Highway 55 and County Road 19. Kenny insisted on making a final sweep through Dobo’s Cafe and Bakeshop’s parking lot one last time before taking her to the service at Sts Peter and Paul Cemetery. Coincidentally I was there at the stop light at that moment. Although the service was private to the family due to the pandemic, with gratitude I prayed to Phyllis my own goodbye, witnessing the slow procession make its trip.
“When my mom was born in 1942 at St Mary’s Hospital in Minneapolis, my grandma had the mumps,” Danny reflected on his mother’s start in life. “So my mom and grandma both were quarantined for a week. The day we buried my mom, the entire state was quarantined. Isnt’ that something? She was born and died during quarantine.”
Danny smiled, and as tears welled up in his eyes he said adamantly, “she was an icon, she was kind, she was family-oriented. Gold at heart.” Phyllis Doboszenski is a matriarch whose love will live on through the kindness she shared and will be passed forward by her children and grandchildren.