Nearly eight decades after she appeared in New York vaudeville shows as a tiny tap dancer, Margaret Filipczak could still knock out a little routine for her family in Edina, dancing around the house to their delight.
“She loved it. She could tap dance into her mid 80s. You’d mention something about dancing and she’d go, ‘You know, I can still do some of this stuff.’ She would rattle off five, ten seconds of tap dancing,” said her son, Bob.
“We’d be watching, saying, ‘Oh my God, how can you move that way?’ ”
Filipczak, who went by Peg, died on Oct. 19. She was 99.
Filipczak was born in Middleville, N.Y. As a girl, she and a cousin took tap dancing lessons and started an act called the Dancing Dolls, her son said.
The duo eventually landed on the vaudeville stage in the Borscht Circuit of resorts in New York’s Catskill Mountains.
By the time they were 10 years old, they had a brush with fame when they opened for “child wonder” Baby Rose Marie (who went on to become a television star on the Dick Van Dyke Show).
Later, Filipczak studied at Oneonta State Teachers College and spent several years teaching first grade.
During World War II, she decided to leave her job to join the American Red Cross. She served as a “Donut Dollie,” one of the thousands of women who volunteered overseas in mobile service clubs, called clubmobiles, that provided food and entertainment and ran social activities for troops.
The volunteers had to have a college degree and be at least 25 to join up.
The Dollies got their name because they traveled in buses that were equipped with doughnut-making machines, and making and handing out fresh doughnuts and coffee was part of their job.
Filipczak was serving in Italy when she met her husband, Gordon, a captain in the Army Air Forces.
The story of their meeting is a family favorite, her son said.
Despite not knowing the game, Peg volunteered to be a fourth in a bridge game with Gordon and two other guys.
“I figured I’d pick it up,” she told her kids later, said Bob. “I’m just imagining these three guys sitting down at the table, realizing this woman doesn’t know how to play bridge. And one of them was my dad. They ended up playing bridge together for the next 60 years,” he said.
After the war, the two married and spent more than a decade in New York before Gordon got a job at the former Product Design and Engineering Inc. in Golden Valley and the family settled in the Twin Cities.
Filipczak raised five kids and became a reading tutor at Our Lady of Grace Catholic School in Edina and at schools in Minneapolis’ North Side.
“She really took to tutoring kids in reading, because she always felt that if people could read effectively that they could not get trapped in bad situations or in poverty,” her son said.
She would reveal her age to no one, and had an enduring sense of humor, he added.
“She had a really quirky, irreverent sense of humor. I knew that if I walked into a room in our house and everyone was laughing it was because of something Mom said. She would just throw out these crazy ideas,” he said. “If I have any kind of a sense of humor it came from her.”
In addition to her son Bob of Kimball, Minn., Filipczak is survived by her two daughters, Sue Rogge of Eau Claire, Wis., and Meg Lowe of Vadnais Heights, as well as five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Services have been held.