Pauline V. Sense was born in Painesville near Cleveland, Ohio, on October 15, 1906, the daughter of Benjamin and Fannie (Wheeler) Sense. As a child her family moved to the Mahoningtown section of New Castle, Pennsylvania, and took up residence at #412 West Cherry Street. Her father was a longtime engineer with the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad.
Pauline, a go-getter from an early age, dropped out of school and found work as a cosmetics salesman and massage therapist. In 1923, when she was seventeen, she found a job as a clerk at Woolworth’s in downtown New Castle. Sometime within the next few years she served as a stewardess on a steamship on a Baltimore-Boston route and then sold automobiles in Cincinnati.
In the spring of 1925, apparently during her stay in Cincinnati, she was married to Harry Hammond. The New Castle News of Friday, March 27, 1925, mentioned, “Mr. and Mrs. B. E. Sense, Cherry street, announce the marriage of their daughter Pauline, to H. N. Hammond of Clayton street. The ceremony took place in Covington, Kentucky, March 12.” The newlyweds took up residence on East Cherry Street in Mahoningtown, but later moved in with her parents. The marriage didn’t last and they were separated after only a few years. They were not officially divorced until 1935.
In late 1929 she started dating James Aiello of Wampum, the son of Italian immigrants Joseph and Grace Aiello. He had just recently separated from his own wife. Aiello, known to have a volatile temper, was a veteran bootlegger with several previous run-ins with the police. In December 1931 he was arrested after causing a disturbance at the Sense family home on West Cherry Street. His sentencing was suspended when he promised to stay out of town for one year. On April 7, 1932, in violation of the court order, he entered the Sense home without warning – apparently to see Pauline – and was shot in the shoulder by her friend Michael DeGaetano. Aiello made a full recovery and DeGaetano was later sentenced to twelve months in prison.
In 1934 her parents relocated a few miles south of Mahoningtown to Moravia in North Beaver Township. Pauline continued to see Aiello and for a time they operated a restaurant together on West Long Avenue. She obviously had deep feelings for Aiello but he suddenly married a young woman named Teresa Donofrio in May 1937. He had been casually dating Teresa and when her family found out they insisted that the couple get married. Aiello moved into the Donofrio family home in Mahoningtown, but he was unhappy and continued to see Pauline. On September 10, 1937, during a family dispute, Teresa’s mother Rose Donofrio shot and killed Aiello as he sat in a car outside her home. She claimed Aiello was menacing her and her family and she shot him in self-defense. Rose Donofrio stood trial on a murder charge in December 1937, but a jury acquitted her of all charges related to the shooting.
Pauline moved on with her own life and in 1938 she married Alex Isaac, a South Side resident of Syrian descent. Together they had a daughter named Fannie Lee Isaac who was born in February 1942. With her newfound stability Pauline, with the assistance of her husband, opened a service station on the family property along Route 18 in North Beaver Township. Before too long she added a grocery store, restaurant, tax service, and notary public office to the enterprise.
In June 1942, to fill a vacant office, she was appointed as a Justice of the Peace in North Beaver Township. In that role she held hearings on minor legal matters, settled local disputes, and married people. She soon became well-known for the latter and often performed in excess of 200 marriages a year in her office. She served as a Justice of the Peace for many years as she was re-elected in 1947, 1953, 1959, and 1965. She lost her father Benjamin Sense in November 1944 as he passed away at the age of sixty-two.
In March 1959 suffered another loss when her husband Alex Isaac passed away at the age of sixty-seven. He was laid to rest in Castle View Memorial Gardens. Her daughter Fannie Lee Isaac was married to Jerome Hasson in August 1959, but was apparently quickly divorced. She was remarried in 1960 to Stanley P. Janis, a U.S. Army veteran and a New Castle Police Officer.
The wedding business boomed as people came from all over to get married by the popular Pauline Isaac. She decided to build a dedicated facility to cater to the wedding industry. The Pauline Isaac Motel, an 11-unit dwelling that included an outdoor swimming pool, and associated Pauline Isaac Wedding Chapel opened in May 1961. Pauline performed the weddings while her daughter and son-in-law operated the motel. Fannie also helped manage the tax service. As the successful decade drew to a close Pauline’s mother Fannie Sense, at the age of eighty-two, passed away in November 1969. She was laid to rest next to her husband Benjamin in Castle View Memorial Gardens.
A month later, as her fame as a businesswoman grew, Pauline Isaac was featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. At the same time a reform of state laws signaled the end of her days as the Justice of the Peace. The New Castle News of Tuesday, December 16, 1969, reported, “Mrs. Pauline V. Isaac, “the marrying squire” as she calls herself after marrying 3,000 couples during her 27 years as a justice of the peace in Lawrence County, was the subject of an article “JPs Under Fire” in The Wall Street Journal yesterday. The story stressed the end of Mrs. Isaac’s marrying days that will come with the beginning of 1972. She is a victim of judicial reform, the story said. An amendment made last year requires all justices of the peace to be lawyers or complete a course in jurisprudence and devote the majority of their time to judicial duties. Mrs. Isaac said she earned $8,000 last year as a JP, far below the income from her motel on Pa. 18, and other business activities so she plans to take down the shingle when her commission expires in January 1972.”
Pauline Isaac had no desire to quit performing weddings and became an ordained non-denominational minister in 1970. The New Castle News of November 8, 1971, reported, “On Jan. 5,1972,13 justices of the peace in the county will leave office. This will be the next-to-last phase before the District Magistrate System mandated by the 1968 state constitution – is fully implemented. The magistrate system will replace by 1974 28 city aldermen and township and borough JPs. Five district magistrate offices were created in the county. They are in operation… One of the county’s most renowned wedding masters is JP Pauline Isaac, whose motel on Pa. 18 in North Beaver Township caters to newlyweds. Mrs. Isaac, a JP since 1940, will continue to conduct wedding ceremonies. She revealed that last year she was ordained to perform marriages. In addition to this and managing her motel, Mrs. Isaac said she intends to become – for the second time – a notary public.”
Pauline’s son-in-law Stanley Janis also became an ordained minister in 1972 and started assisting her with the weddings. He retired from the New Castle Police Department in January 1977 and started performing the weddings fulltime. Pauline basically went into retirement at that time. It was estimated that she had presided over 8,000 weddings during the last thirty-five years.
Her retirement was short-lived as she passed away in Jameson Memorial Hospital on the morning of Friday, July 11, 1980. She was seventy-three years old. A memorial service for friends and family was held at the DeCarbo Funeral Home on Cunningham Avenue and was presided over by the Reverend Delmar Probst. She was subsequently laid to rest in Castle View Memorial Gardens.
An article in the New Castle News of Friday, July 11, 1980, praised her with, “At age 73, she had accomplished enough feats to fill three lifetimes. Mrs. Isaac’s outlook on life reflected the adage that “you don’t know until you try it” because she had tried nearly everything. Along with the thousands of people who became man and wife under her authority, countless other individuals crossed her path during her numerous endeavors… Pauline Isaac’s ceremonies have taken place at all hours of the day and night and the minister had even left her hospital bed to marry a couple she had promised to marry. This minister’s duties didn’t stop after the Lord’s Prayer, which concluded her services. She invited the newlyweds to return for counsel if they ever needed it and many accepted her advice.”
Her daughter Fannie Janis and son-in-law Stanley Janis continued to own and operate the successful ventures she established. The motel was closed in 1982 and put up for sale. It was sold to the Tressler family and was reopened in 1985. The property was apparently closed and returned to the Janis family during a lawsuit in 1991. The motel was torn down, but the wedding chapel and tax service remained active.
Stanley Janis followed in Pauline’s footsteps and became well-known for presiding over small weddings at the chapel. It was estimated that he performed over 11,000 ceremonies from 1972 until he finally retired at the age of eighty in March 2007. That averages out to 314 weddings a year. He passed away two years later in May 2009. Fannie Janis managed the Pauline Isaac Tax Service until she finally retired in the summer of 2010. The tax service was in operation for a total of fifty years – and was the last of the businesses started by the resourceful Pauline V. Isaac.
The Pauline Isaac Motel and associated Pauline Isaac Wedding Chapel opened for business in May 1961. Pauline performed the weddings while her daughter Fannie and son-in-law Stanley Janis operated the motel. (c1965)