From the time Dolores Bulinski’s ovarian cancer was diagnosed in the 1970s and through the ensuing years of her survival with it — unusual in that era — she took everything with grace.
The petite woman was the “rock” of her family of eight, including six children, her family said.
Her daughter Trish Bulinski described her mother as “incredibly stoic.”
“She never, ever complained and believe me she endured,” Trish said. “She endured much. … She was just a pleasure to be around. She was a kind and loving person.”
She died at 86 on April 28 at her home overlooking Shagawa Lake in Ely in northern Minnesota.
After World War II, Dolores met her husband, Emery, near the north side of Chicago, where they both lived. She worked in a corner drugstore as a soda jerk.
Within the first few years of their marriage in 1956, the two moved to Ely, where they loved to fish, and purchased a cabin-style resort called Snowbank Lodge. Their children grew up there.
Bulinski, often called “Mrs. B,” was head chef at Snowbank — which had about 20 cabins and hosted upward of 100 people each weekend — and maintained the resort while raising her children. “She was pulling out these perfect pies and all us kids were running around her,” Trish said.
“She was just a great mom,” added daughter Becky Falk.
Throughout the years, the Bulinskis owned and managed many other resorts, bars, restaurants, and canoe-outfitting businesses. They also made a stop in Los Angeles before returning to Ely.
Maybe it was Emery’s determination and drive after coming home from World War II that rubbed off on Dolores, but the two were not afraid of anything. “Not of going broke while raising the kids, nothing,” said Mike Zika, who worked and lived with the family for many years. “They just stuck it out all the time.”
And despite a busy life, Bulinski often stopped to ask how people were doing, Zika said.
In 1964, the Bulinskis bought a 10,000-square-foot log building on Basswood Lake. The lodge closed after the formation of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Instead of moving, they decided to physically move the building. They took the lodge apart log by log. Each piece was moved 40 miles across frozen lakes and rebuilt near the Snowbank Lodge, son Gregory said. And Dolores was there running food for the men.
Dolores, a confident woman, finished crossword puzzles with ink, not in pencil, in no time flat, Gregory said. She was a craftsman, sewing her family’s clothes for many years, and a founding member of the Ely Weavers Guild.
Dolores taught many “cabin girls” how to clean and make the beds. Upon hearing about her death, a former employee wrote to the family saying how Dolores taught her those everyday skills.
She was comfortable in the wilderness and on the back of a snowmobile, but was elegant nonetheless.
Toward the end of her life, the enthusiastic and dedicated swing and jitterbug dancer slowed down a little.
“[My parents] were amazing people,” Gregory said. “They would dance in the living room and in the kitchen whenever they had the chance.”
“We really miss her,” Trish said. “She was amazing in what she could handle and do and accomplish.”
In addition to her daughters Trish and Becky, son Gregory, and husband of 67 years, Emery, she is survived by sons Bill and Earl; another daughter, Pamela Bulinski; eight grandchildren; four great-grandchildren, and surrogate family members Mike Zika and Judy Hannigan. Services will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, June 6, at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Ely. Visitation will be held one hour before the service.