From a young age, Dale Wassink has been known by many names. She was nicknamed Nene (pronounced neh-neh) as a child-a Filipino term of endearment for a little girl. The second of five children, she was sickly and suffered asthma. Growing up in the Philippines, the illness kept her from playing outdoors as much as her siblings. She had to avoid the heat, dust and overexertion. But it also means she got what she wanted. "I was always the first one to read the comic books. They didn't want to upset me, because I might have an attack. 'I want the comic book first,' she'd say. I'd get it first." She laughs, "So, I'm kind of a little spoiled. Whatever I said goes. But I wasn't bad." Her ability to negotiate would pay off as an adult.
Wassink was born Erlinda Milagrosa Ampil Crucillo in Manila in 1938. Her mother was a home economics teacher and supervisor for the local school district. Her father a lawyer and agriculturist who worked for the government as a civil servant. She and her family spoke English at home, as well as Tagalog, a Filipino language. And they enjoyed serious games of Scrabble, that occasionally involved taking another player's tiles! After high school, she attended University of the East, where she studied accounting and became a CPA.
While in her 20s, working as an assistant to a vice president for the Philippine National Bank in Manila, Wassink seized an opportunity to move to New York City. The bank was opening a branch and needed staff. She convinced her boss to let her go by arranging for her own replacement. "I was raring to go! [I had] no fear about leaving family. I always wanted to go to America and to be asked to come and have a good position when you come? That was tremendous for me." She made the leap when she was 30, moving to New York in the late 60's.
Though, she began going by the name Dale in high school (inspired by the film actress Dale Evans), she made it official in the early 1980s when she became a US citizen, by making the nickname her middle name. She would later earn her MBA from Fordham University in NYC. Friends introduced Dale to Bernhard Wassink, from Germany. He was Men's Fashion Director for Hoechst Trevira, a fabric and textiles manufacturer. A German friend of his was dating a Filipino friend of Dale's. Bernhard asked if she had a friend. It was Dale. In the early days of their courtship, Bernhard pursued Dale by offering dinner to go along with her tickets to the opera. They married in 1972. The pair still enjoys opera and Bible study. "I noticed how he interacted with his own parents; he was very gentlemanly, respectful to his parents. He was very kind, very giving," she says.
Dale and Bernhard's daughter, Tanya, was born in 1974. The next year, the young family moved to Los Angeles, where in 1981 the Wassinks started Plaxicon, a plastics company that manufactured plastic bottles for the food industry, at a time when everything was in glass. Sons, Bernhard and Henry, were born in 1976 and 1977, respectively.
Today, Wassink says she's thankful to God for her husband, family and the life she's had. Now she goes by one more name: Lola, Filipino for "Grandmother".