A Portland woman and her daughter died last week within three days of each other, leaving their family heartbroken but feeling that a higher power had a hand in the timing of their losses. Family members said 53-year-old Dolores Carmela Dearborn died unexpectedly Tuesday. Her mother, 88-year-old Camilla Dearborn, died Friday. People knew the elder Dearborn as “Dolly,” a nickname she picked up as a young girl.

The mother and daughter had lived together in a home on St. John Street for the past 43 years, said Linda Whittemore of Yarmouth, Massachusetts. Whittemore is Dolores’ sister and Camilla’s daughter.

Whittemore said her family chose not to tell Mrs. Dearborn that her daughter had predeceased her.

“My heart is broken, but I felt it was for the best,” Whittemore said Sunday night. “I was very distraught and shocked about my (younger) sister. When you are 53 years old, you don’t anticipate anything like this happening.”

Camilla Dearborn was the daughter of Italian immigrants, Corrado and Vincenza Corradini, who came to Portland from Italy in the early 1900s. She grew up in Portland and enjoyed singing with her three sisters.

Whittemore said her mother, who was a homemaker, had a beautiful singing voice. Her love for music and dancing was one of the many joys of her life.

Mrs. Dearborn had three daughters, Linda, Dolores and Victoria (Jarry), who lives in Westbrook.

“My sister lived her entire life with my mother. She never married,” Whittemore said.

Dolores Dearborn ran a cleaning service at one time and also worked in a doctor’s office. She traveled to Italy and England and enjoyed spending summers at a camp her family rented on Sebago Lake. Though she never had children, she did have a dog – Lexie – that she loved like a child.

Whittemore said her sister took on the role of caregiver as their mother aged, was diagnosed with leukemia and also developed a rare blood disorder that in the past three years required her to have blood transfusions.

“It was very unusual,” Whittemore said.

Last month, Dolores was not feeling well and went to Maine Medical Center, where doctors discovered blood clots forming around her heart and legs. She was admitted to the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

Around the same time, their mother was taken to Maine Med for her regular blood transfusion, but informed her doctor that she wanted to discontinue the transfusions.

“She basically decided she was done,” Whittemore said.

Before Mrs. Dearborn was admitted to the Barron Center, a nursing home facility in Portland, Whittemore arranged for the pair to say goodbye to each other. “I was concerned that my sister would never see our mother again,” Whittemore said.

“They said their goodbyes and said they loved each other.”

Whittemore had to return to Massachusetts. A few days later, she was notified by the medical staff that her mother did not have long to live. On the drive back to Maine, she got another phone call from the hospital about her sister’s failing condition.

By the time she arrived at Maine Med, her sister had died. Whittemore would spend the next couple of days with her mother, never telling her that Dolores had died.

“I just felt that God intervened. … It was meant to end this way,” she said.

A special celebration in honor of Dolores and Camilla Dearborn will be held in Portland in June.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com