October 10 – MOSES LAKE – Delphie Bifano was always busy, always working on a project, always adding to her collections and always on the move.
“She just couldn’t sit still,” her daughter Beth Smith said.
Bifano, who died in May 2021, was a nurse as well as a ranch wife and mother of eight and spent many years working at Brookdale Hearthstone Moses Lake.
“She loved it here,” her daughter Sylvia Carlson said. “She loved it. She was involved, she would come and do activities. She would bring her dolls. She had this ‘Mother’s Love’ series, and I remember, she would bring it up and display it for Mother’s Day. At Christmas , she evoked some of her Santa Clauses.”
“She loved sharing her dolls,” Smith said.
Her career at Brookdale Hearthstone and her love of dolls resulted in a donation to the long-term care facility after her death. Some of her dolls are on display in the Brookdale Dining Room, and more will be on display soon.
Brookdale resident Bonnie Kahananui – known as Miss Bon Bon – worked on the window display and showed it to Bianfo’s family members for the first time on October 4.
“How do you like it?” she asked.
“I love it,” Smith said, looking at the window display.
Bifano’s dolls were important to her – probably her biggest collection. It was a big deal for a girl growing up in the 1930s when times were tough and there wasn’t much money to buy toys.
“She had a corncob doll and she had to share it with her sisters,” Carlson said.
When she had some money to spend, she started collecting dolls. It was the mid-1970s, her daughters said, and from then on she collected all kinds of dolls.
She started with Barbie and moved on to baby dolls, porcelain dolls with elaborate costumes, cloth dolls, miniature dolls. She found dolls at thrift stores and garage sales, found others through advertisements and online, and eventually started making her own. One of his first projects was made from clay containing ash from the Mount St. Helens eruption, Smith said.
Family members said Bifano was generous. She gave away dolls, and if someone admired one of them, she put that person’s name on it, so that it would be taken into account when distributing the collection.
His daughters said generosity was part of the way of life for Bifano and her husband Tony. There was a time in Colorado when visitors came to the family ranch to stay for a few days. It was only after they left that Tony and Delphie discovered that each thought the visitors were relatives of the other’s family and neither actually knew the visitors. They welcomed them anyway.
“It was like you even looked like you needed something, they would do their best to give it to you,” Carlson said.
Making dolls was just one of Bifano’s projects.
“She was very artistic,” Smith said. “She was making cakes, she was making quilts. She was always busy.”
Projects were only part of a busy life. The family moved to Moses Lake in 1967, seeking a better climate for Tony Bifano’s health.
“She drove here in a Rambler with a U-Haul,” Smith said.
Delphie Bifano fulfilled a long-held ambition when she graduated from Big Bend Community College’s nursing program in 1971. She then worked at Brookdale Hearthstone, among other places. She retired once, but it didn’t last.
“She was sick of having nothing to do,” Smith said.
She was known to occasionally walk to work in Brookdale Hearthstone – from her home near the Grant County Fairgrounds.
She returned to nursing at a long-term care facility and performed home care when she retired.
“A go-getter, consistently,” Carlson said.
When she passed away and her family started looking at her collections, it became clear that there were more dolls than her family could absorb. Some were sold, some were given away, but some stayed. Smith said she thought about where her mother worked and how she enjoyed sharing it with residents. She called Brookdale Hearthstone manager Joe Ketterer, who said he was happy to accept the donation.
Some of Bifano’s dolls are now on display in Brookdale Hearthstone’s Dining Hall. Brookdale Hearthstone employee Tatiana Hernandez and Miss Bon Bon curated the exhibit.
“We organized them, we walked through them,” Hernandez said. “They are so beautiful and so detailed.
“My favorites are Monday-Sunday dolls,” she said.
Miss Bon Bon said Santa Claus and his sleigh were her favourites, although she also loved the little girl in the red striped dress and hat. She designed the display, from the old couple on the top shelf to the curled up cat on the bottom shelf.
One of Bifano’s granddaughters, who preferred not to be named, said she was delighted the dolls had found a good home.
“It feels good that they’re here,” she said.
Cheryl Schweizer can be reached by email at [email protected]