A pioneering educator who devoted decades to improving the lives of North Carolinians, especially its women and children, passed away Jan. 31 at the age of 91.
Ada Braswell Dalla Pozza of Cary served North Carolina Cooperative Extension at N.C. State University for more than 70 years as an agent, faculty member, mentor and volunteer. Ms. Ada, as she is affectionately known, provided leadership to improve the quality of life for families and helped create create leadership institutes for rural women, many of whom became elected officials.
Dalla Pozza won numerous state and national awards and held countless leadership positions. Dalla Pozza was the News & Observer’s Tar Heel of the Week. In a March 9, 1980, article headlined “Home economist has clout – event at the U.N.,” she was quoted as saying, “I’ve always liked to help people.”
Indeed, she left that commitment to people, as well as her enthusiasm and expertise, as her legacy to the organization she served so faithfully. Dr. Carolyn Dunn, professor and interim head of N.C. State’s Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences, says that Dalla Pozza “cared deeply about the youth and families in North Carolina and made it her life’s work to serve them. She paved the way for the work that continues today.”
Born in Anson County in 1922, Dalla Pozza said that her early years gave her an advantage when it came to understanding farm families’ struggles. She was raised on an Anson County farm – a farm she, as a teen, and her sisters began operating after their father died of leukemia.
Her acquaintance with Cooperative Extension – an educational outreach partnership of N.C. State University, N.C. A&T State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and county governments – stretched back to those childhood days. Taking part in the organization’s 4-H program, she became the state and national Dress Revue champion in 1937, when she designed and constructed a red plaid floor-length formal dress with matching red bolero jacket. She also made her own undergarments and pocketbook for the competition.
Dalla Pozza began her career with Cooperative Extension in a position that offered no pay: assistant home economics agent in her home county. Then in 1944, after earning a bachelor’s degree in home economics from what is now the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, she moved to a paid position in Union County.
She worked as an emergency World War II food preservation assistant, a position that called for her to teach families about healthy nutrition and safe food preservation at a time when the United States government was rationing food. Some of the preserved food, such as home-canned pork chops and sausage, also went to the front lines, bringing Dalla Pozza thank-you letters from a number of servicemen.