LYNN — Dorothy “Dot” Macaione, who turns 99 years old in January, has spent her years giving back, but her work with the Girl Scouts is what she believes has had the most impact.
“Girl Scouts has been my life,” said Macaione, a Girl Scout for 63 years.
Macaione, who turns 99 on Jan. 9, wasn’t able to join the Girl Scouts when she was growing up. Her mother wouldn’t let her join because she needed her help with taking care of Dot’s siblings.
Her daughter, also named Dorothy, came home from school one day upset and Macaione decided she wanted to be a troop leader. Macaione achieved her goal of being in the Girl Scouts when her daughter joined, and she became her assistant troop leader.
A lifelong Lynner, Macaione graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1937. Her enduring commitment to the Girl Scouts has earned her the highest honors the organization bestows.
Despite the accolades, Macaione is hesitant to speak of her own personal accomplishments. Sitting with her long-time friend and fellow Girl Scout, Kal Ricker, in the library of her home at St. Theresa House in Lynn, Macaione recalled years of selling calendars and cookies, explaining there were cookies in her house every year.
What she does proudly recall is her work with a troop of girls with disabilities. Macaione was formally recognized for her work with a special needs troop at a residential home in the city in the 1980s.
“It’s the girls — that’s what’s important,” Macaione said. “It doesn’t take much to be a volunteer. All you’ve got to do is do it. That’s been my motto. The years have been good to me. I’ve made a lot of good friends and have gotten a lot out of it. That’s what Girl Scouts is — friendship.”
In 1985, she was awarded the Thanks Badge by the Girl Scouts of the USA, which honors an individual whose ongoing commitment, leadership and service has had an exceptional impact on meeting the mission-delivery goals and priorities of the entire council or the entire Girl Scout movement.
In April, she was awarded the Thanks II badge — only former Thanks Badge recipients who have continued to provide exemplary service in a leadership service are eligible for the award. In 2012, she was honored with the President’s Award for her work with the Scouts.
In the letter of recommendation Ricker wrote for Macaione in 1985, she detailed how her friend has been a leader, organizer, consultant, senior adviser, delegate and neighborhood chairwoman with the Girl Scouts, holding down many of those jobs simultaneously.
Macaione has been involved with the organization of scouting at St. Pius V Parish in Lynn. With Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, she served as a museum operations volunteer, North Andover History Committee member, service unit volunteer and troop leader.
It’s important for women to get involved with the Girl Scouts, she said, as their children in turn get involved. Macaione’s daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter are all scouts. Part of the work is understanding the girls, letting them make their own mistakes and helping each other.
“I think more people should be kind to themselves and I think it starts with being kind to someone else and then it moves down,” Macaione said. “That’s one thing we should teach the girls — you have to be kind. (We should) teach what a difference it makes when you’re kind to somebody else.”
It’s not just her time with the Scouts — Macaione has lived a life of service. She met her husband of 55 years, Jim, while serving as a Red Cross First Aid instructor and Air Raid Warden during World War II. Her husband, who died in 2001, was in one of her classes.
“I was the only woman. They were all men. It was fun,” Macaione said with a smile.
Her recent advocacy work has come with the Massachusetts Senior Action Council. She’s picketed in front of the State House to advocate for beneficial legislation for seniors.
As her 99th birthday approaches, Macaione said her goal is to live to 102. She’s not sure why she settled on that figure but insists that the more round number of 105 as proposed by Ricker is too long to live.
She doesn’t have a secret to longevity, but said having good friends helps, and being civic-minded and active in the community is better than just sitting and doing nothing. “If you can help someone out, do it, even if it’s just talking,” she said.
“That’s the wonderful thing,” Ricker said. “Every day I expect this wonderful lady to be here and she is.”