Marie A. Breslin-Braksator-Dingas, 91, who was the oldest graduate of Olney High School in 1990 at 74 - the same school her five sons had graduated from decades earlier - died Thursday of kidney failure at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne.
When the stock market crashed in 1929, Marie Strinck's parents lost their jobs, and she had to leave Frankford High School during her freshman year to work.
She began a 46-year career as an invisible mender - a seamstress with a magic touch who sat in a shop window on Market Street and repaired damage and moth holes in clothes as passersby looked on. She told her family she once mended a rip in Mayor Frank L. Rizzo's pants.
She married and was widowed three times and raised six children. Her first husband was Charles Breslin. After he died, she married Herman Braksator. When he died in 1971, she tried to get a job as a receptionist, but was turned down because she did not have a high school diploma. When her third husband, John Dingas, died, she decided to go back to school.
In 1989, the longtime Olney resident enrolled as a sophomore at Olney High. She attended classes with teenagers and toted a heavy book bag to school each day. She earned A's and B's in six major subjects until graduating in 1990.
"Marie has influenced many of her younger classmates," said Helen Mintzes, adult student coordinator, in a 1988 Inquirer story. "She's here every day and comes prepared."
"The teachers are just as tough on me in class as they are on the children," Mrs. Dingas said. "That's good."
When her children were growing up, she gave them $1 for every A on their report cards and 50 cents each for the B's. At graduation, the white-haired grandmother of 19 and great-grandmother of 17 got it all back and then some.
"Each gave me $5 for the marks and $5 to boot," she said.
Mrs. Dingas spoke of hopes of attending Community College and taking courses in business after graduation, but she returned to being a homemaker.
In addition to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Mrs. Dingas is survived by sons Herman Braksator Jr., Richard Braksator, Thomas Braksator and James Braksator. Daughter Marie Braksator died in 1944, and son Charles Breslin died in 2004.
A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Greenmount Cemetery, Front and Wingohocking Streets.