Obici niece worked to preserve family legacy
Published 6:16 pm Friday, March 10, 2023
Jolyne Dalzell, the great-niece of Planters’ founder Amedeo Obici, dedicated much of her life working to keep he and his family legacy alive.
Jolyne, 86, who resided in Haddonfield, New Jersey, died on Feb. 12 after a lengthy illness.
But her memory and her devotion to her uncle’s memory remain alive and strong, particularly in Suffolk – the location Obici chose due to its importance to the peanut industry.
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Many in the city knew Jolyne through her involvement with Suffolk Sister Cities and from her role in the fight to keep the City of Suffolk from demolishing the Obici family home.
Her daughter Elizabeth Dalzell said her mother frequently visited Suffolk and would often share stories of visits, particularly when they stayed at the Obici family home.
“I know the Obici home meant a tremendous amount to her,” Elizabeth said, noting that her mother was quite the “spitfire” not letting anything stand in her way. Knowing that the home was preserved was important to Jolyne because of her many visits there and the wonderful memories she had there as a child.
“It was important to her to keep his story alive in Suffolk,” Elizabeth said. “He was very grateful for his workers and treated them with respect and fairly.”
She said she knows that giving back to Suffolk was very important to Obici, and her mother wants that legacy to be remembered.
“I think overall she was a great advocate for her uncle and Planters,” Elizabeth shared. “She did cherish the people of Suffolk, how they were willing to welcome her when she visited.”
One couple Jolyne befriended in Suffolk are Doug and MaryJane Naismith, who she met on a Suffolk Sister Cities visit to the Obici boyhood hometown of Oderzo, Italy, where the Planters Peanuts founder and Suffolk benefactor immigrated from to the U.S. as a child.
Doug Naismith recalls the couple first met her on the trip as they made a visit to the nearby city of Venice, Italy, about 20 years ago.
He recalls her as “delightful and full of personality and was very passionate about Obici.”
His wife MaryJane Naismith said the Sister Cities program was important to Jolyne thanks to the link between her uncle’s hometown and Suffolk as she worked to keep his memory alive.
From there, they struck up a friendship where they did visit one another and stayed in touch by phone through the years.
MaryJane said she recalls the fight that Jolyne joined to help save the Obici home, which the city wanted to demolish because it had fallen into disrepair.
While the city did not back the plan Jolyne and others in the historic preservation movement wanted, MaryJane said she was pleased it was saved and tied to the nearby public golf course, where it would be used for gathering and events.
Jolyne addressed the Obici family home issue in an August 2012 letter to the editor published in the News-Herald.
“The last time I slept in this house was in September 1951, when the Louisa Obici Memorial Hospital was dedicated. My family — grandparents, aunts, uncles and more — were present,” Jolyne wrote. “Everything in the house and out in the barns, chicken coops etc. was still intact, and it all seemed to be the same, except that two important characters were missing: Amedeo and his pet goat, Judy.”
Through the years, Jolyne wrote that she and her husband often visited the house when we were in the area, but watched as it fell into disrepair.
“From 2001 to 2010 it seemed to become more and more frail. I attended many council meetings in Suffolk when its fate was being discussed. It appeared that this house, which is very important to Suffolk, was doomed,” Jolyne said in the letter. “Thankfully the city of Suffolk, through Mayor Linda Johnson’s guidance, saw the advantages of restoring the house to its previous grandeur. Ronnie Rountree was ‘drafted’ to be in charge of the renovations and rose to the occasion.”
She said she was pleased with the renovations performed on the home, as they preserved many of its features including the windows, moldings, floors, tile, and stained glass.
“It will never be a home again, but I hope it will host many parties. A bit of the past has been brought to the future,” Jolyne wrote. “Then I looked at Mr. Peanut standing in front of the building. Yes, I do believe that Mr. Peanut and Amedeo Obici are nearly one in the same. And there he stands today, watching his house, listening to happy voices, music and laughter.”
MaryJane said she knows the Suffolk Sister Cities program will help keep the Obici legacy alive as it continues its relationship with Oderzo, noting there is another trip there planned for September.
“It’s sad to lose a friend,” MaryJane said. But she said anyone who knew of Obici could see a lot of him in Jolyne.
In addition to the Sister Cities program working to keep the Obici legacy alive, Jolyne’s daughter Elizabeth said she will visit Suffolk frequently to continue her mother’s work.
Jolyne Dalzell passed away Feb. 12, 2023, after a lengthy illness;
Born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Jolyne was a graduate of Trinity College, DC. She was an elementary school teacher in Cherry Hill, New Jersey before marrying and settling in Haddonfield, where she lived for more than 50 years as an active member of the community. She served on the Board of Education and was involved in many local groups and organizations including: Haddon Fortnightly, the Gourmet Club, the Questers and the Haddonfield Garden Club. For many years she was the owner of the Children’s Shop, and later taught English as a Second Language class, and worked at the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as director of visitor services. She enjoyed theater, playing bridge, tennis, travel and soft-shell crabs.
She was preceded in death by her husband Daniel Dalzell. She is survived by Elizabeth (Ken Kramer) Dalzell and David (Michelle Plochere) Dalzell; grandchildren, Liesl, Hattie, Imogen and Gustave; and a sister Thomas (Nancy) Rocereto.
The family received friends on Thursday, Feb. 23 at the Dalzell Home. A memorial mass was celebrated at Old St. Joseph’s Church, 321 Willings Alley Philadelphia, Friday, Feb. 24 at 10:00 AM.
In lieu of flowers, charitable donations in Jolyne’s name may be made to Kingsway Services Adult Program (https://kingswaylearningcenter.org/donate/).