WHEN DOROTHY Donnelly Caparella found out she was qualified to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, she wasn't impressed.

Turns out an ancestor on her father's side of the family, Francis Stimmel, fought in the Revolutionary War, enabling Dottie to become a member of the iconic DAR, long a passionate promoter of patriotism and the American way.

Dottie was not impressed.

It wasn't that Dottie lacked interest in her family history. She was a devoted family matriarch who always put her family's needs ahead of her own. But the DAR didn't interest her.

Dorothy L. Donnelly Caparella, one-time part owner of a hearing-aid store in Southampton, a dedicated traveler who was frequently on the go, often looking for a place where she could get a good meal, a loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, died Friday. She was 89 and lived in Warminster.

In her later years, Dottie's idea of a good time was to park herself in a car driven by her stepdaughter, Kitty Caparella, and take a long drive through Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware, usually in search of a good restaurant.

"She loved long trips," said Kitty, retired Daily News reporter who specialized in covering the mob.

One of their favorite destinations was the Edward B. Forsythe National Wildlife Preserve in Galloway Township, N.J., where they would take the 8-mile drive through the salt marshes on the lookout for the birds plying the Atlantic Flyway.

Then there was a stop at the nearby Noyes Museum of Art to check out American fine and folk art. And finally, the Oyster Creek Inn in Leeds Point for a hearty seafood meal, ignoring the legend that the Jersey Devil was born in Leeds Point.

Dottie's traveling began with her husband, Joseph Caparella, Kitty's father. They would take cruises to the Caribbean, and visited Italy and Greece and other travel destinations.

After he died in 2002 of lung cancer, Kitty assumed the travel tradition, until Dottie became incapacitated by Parkinson's disease in the final few years of her life.

Dottie was born in Philadelphia to Horace Stimmel and the former Lillian Rose. She graduated from Olney High School, and took a job as a cashier in a Penn Fruit Supermarket.

She married Edward T. Donnelly Jr., a demolition contractor, in 1942. He died in 1977.

In the early '80s, she met Joseph Caparella, then divorced, and in 1984, they married. They worked for a time for a nephew of Dottie's in the hearing-aid business, before opening their own hearing-aid store in Southampton.

In the mid-'90s, they retired and moved to a farm in Gilbertsville. They lived in a two-story white house with black shutters and rented the rest of the property to farmers. Joseph was proud of his vegetable garden, growing the ingredients for his special Italian gravy.

Her son, Michael A. Donnelly, has fond memories of visiting that farm as a child. "We kids used to go to the farm on the weekends," he said. "We had good times there."

Two years after Joseph Caparella died, Dottie sold her home and the farm land and bought a home in Warminster to be closer to her children and grandchildren.

Kitty said she saw her father change through his marriage to the fun-loving Dottie Donnelly.

"He was always a warm, loving person," she said, "but he became more so as they lived and worked together as a couple.

"She was devoted to her family," Kitty said. "She treated me like a daughter. A wonderful woman and mother for whom her family was the ultimate. She was very sweet."

Besides her son and step-daughter, she is survived by a daughter, Dorothy "Dottie" McGowan; a stepson, Michael Caparella; a daughter-in-law, Alice Donnelly; six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Besides her husbands, she was predeceased by a son, Edward T. Donnelly III, and a grandson, Michael A. Donnelly Jr.

Services: Funeral Mass 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Nativity of Our Lord Church, 585 W. Street Road, Warminster. Friends may call at 9:30 a.m. Burial will be in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Cheltenham.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Asthma Research Trust, 555 E. Wells St., Suite 1100, Milwaukee, WI 53202.