Though she was an artist with a gift for calligraphy, Asna Fisher Aronie helped run a poultry farm in Needham and her family’s real estate business, which owned apartment buildings in Dorchester and Roxbury. For a while, she and her husband, Israel, also ran a portrait business out of their Needham home.
“My father had a darkroom and all kinds of photographic equipment,” said her son Alan of Littleton. “He would take the pictures in black and white and my mother would paint over them, giving them color. The end result was truly unique, somewhere between photography and a painted portrait. I remember they would set up the equipment in our living room, and individuals and families would be immortalized in photos and oils.”
Mrs. Aronie, who graduated in 1935 from what is now the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, died in her sleep Nov. 13 in New Horizons assisted living in Marlborough. She was 98 and formerly lived in Concord.
“She graduated from MassArt at a time when women hardly went to college,” said her granddaughter Aprill of Santa Fe. “She had the most amazing calligraphy. Every birthday card was handmade and decorated with flowers or hearts that she would draw. I also remember her painting these amazing flowers on T-shirts.”
Her family said Mrs. Aronie also demonstrated her talents through her work at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, where for a time she was responsible for newsletters, murals, coming-events posters, notices, and pamphlets.
In addition, Mrs. Aronie loved ballroom dancing and often danced the night away with her husband at Moseley’s on the Charles. After his death in 2007, she continued to dance, even after she moved into assisted living.
“She enjoyed ballroom dancing and would do it all of the time,” Alan said. “During her last five years, she lived at New Horizons and was just about the only one who would get up and dance whenever there was live music. She was fondly known at New Horizons as ‘the dancer.’ ”
The oldest of Alice and Seymour Fisher’s four daughters, Asna Fisher was born in Boston on April 24, 1914. She graduated from Girls High School in 1931 and lived with her parents on Kingsdale Street in Dorchester until she married Israel Hosea Aronie.
“My father proposed to my mother on the first date, which was a blind date,” Alan said. “It was love at first sight on his part for sure. She thought he was crazy, but they dated for a year before getting married and enjoying 69 close, passionate years together. They worked seamlessly in a few businesses and took each other’s advice and partnership lovingly. They both loved to dance, and they loved the music of life together.”
For 31 years the Aronies operated Aronie Realty.
“My father bought a few buildings in Roxbury and Dorchester and then kept going until he had about 150 apartments in 14 buildings,” Alan said.
“The tenants loved my father and mother because it was never about money, but instead service and caring,” he said. “Most of the tenants were hard-working, blue collar people, and at times couldn’t make the modest $50 monthly rent. My folks would always allow people time to pay and quite often would forgive rents, sometimes for a year.”
Mrs. Aronie kept the books. Through the decades, she also worked as a graphic artist and at Court Square Press in Boston. Her family said she helped design John Eliot Elementary School and Temple Beth Shalom, both in Needham, and also had worked with a Russian technical writer.
“I never remember my mother complaining, about any job,” Alan said. “She just dug in and did everything with great skill and enthusiasm. She was a very good typist and very organized, and she did page layout and all manner of reports.”
Frances Addelson of Coral Springs, Fla., a close friend for nearly 80 years, said Mrs. Aronie had a knack for making people feel welcome.
“My husband and her husband were friends when they were boys,” Addelson said. “She was a wonderful lady. We didn’t have to announce that we were coming when we visited, and they always welcomed us with open arms.”
Addelson, who is 103, said her friend was a good cook and she could count on getting a nice meal at the Aronie house, where they enjoyed sitting out back by a lake, “gossiping and talking about everything under the sun.”
The women kept in touch after Addelson moved to Florida four years ago.
Mrs. Aronie also spoke weekly by phone with her granddaughter Aprill, who moved to New Mexico last year. Aprill said she cherished their talks, her grandmother’s good advice, and her wedding ring.
“She didn’t give it to me herself, but all of my uncles and my father decided that I should have her wedding ring,” Aprill said. “She actually designed the pattern that is etched into it, and had it made.”
Besides her son and granddaughter, Mrs. Aronie leaves three other sons, Joel of Chilmark, Steven of Nipomo, Calif., and Martin of Canton, Conn.; two sisters, Sarah Braveman of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Bernice Goldman of Painted Post, N.Y.; five other grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
A gathering to celebrate her life will be announced.
Aprill said her grandmother also will be remembered for her amazing hugs “that pulled you in so close and made you just feel the love coming from her.”
Addelson said that “the Bible speaks about a mother’s love and how precious it is. Asna was good and loving, not only to her boys and her husband, but to everyone.”