Pani Matka Shirley L. Neal, 73, of Marion Center, PA fell asleep in the Lord on Thursday, April 9, 2020. The Lord has taken her to a place of a brightness, a place of green pasture, and a place of gentle repose. She was a graduate of Penns Manor High School (1965) and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (1969). She taught Home Economics and Consumer Sciences at Marion Center Area School District. She is preceded in repose by her mother and father, Florence (Chilenski) and John G. Lawer of Clymer, PA, ancestors, dogs, cats, a rabbit, and that deer she hit that one time.
She is survived by her exasperatingly witty family: her husband of 51 years and best friend, Father Deacon Paul E. Neal, and daughters Bethany (Robert) Peters and Megan Neal; who took every opportunity to embarrass her in public. She is also survived by two grandchildren, Benjamin and Atalie Peters, who she allowed to do and eat everything she wouldn’t allow her own; and her son-in-law Robert, who made harrying her an art form but who loved and became her fiercest protector. Last but not least, she leaves behind Baxter, the mini Australian shepherd she allowed to, always very nearly, get away with murder and whom we considered burying with her.
She also has some siblings, they’re all still alive. Robert (Sandee) Lawer of Elizabethtown, PA; Michael (Judy) Lawer of Indiana, PA; Sharon (Bill) Lawer of Shelocta; Pamela (Tom) Thompson of Indiana, PA; Richard (Kris) Lawer of Clymer; Lori (David) Lucas of Cherry Tree, PA. She is also survived by a small legion of nieces & nephews who she loved dearly: Jeff, Jessica, Tyler, & Madison Lawer; Todd & Justin Lawer; Andy, Sarah, & Hadley Lawer; Brad, Lacey, & Abigail Lawer; Mitzi Lawer; Jason, Brandon, & Cody Lawer; Melissa, Rahul, & Vihaan Datta; Rebekah Thompson; Stephanie, AJ, Blaze, Aria, & Alonzo Amadei; Zach Lawer; Dylan Lawer; Amanda Lucas; and Eric Lucas. There are also about five billion extended family members and cousins. You know who you are.
She was strong-willed but kindhearted, patient yet persistent, and a formidable warrior when it came to protecting her family. “Ooooooh you made Mom angry!” was code for ‘you had better run for the hills’.
She enjoyed telling tales of her childhood years when she rode cows on the farm and smacked her brother over the head with a 2x4 after he broke her doll, or was it when he launched her off the clothesline? These were second only to the tales of walking uphill both ways in four feet of snow to get to school and back home.
During her college years she spent her summers waitressing in Atlantic City but would never let her daughters go on spring break. She had a short gig as an Interior Designer which spurred a lifelong love of flowered, blue wallpaper. She then began her teaching career of “not getting paid enough to deal with administration”. She devotedly taught Home Economics and Consumer Sciences at Marion Center School District for over 36 years; with at least one student every year who “couldn’t follow instructions” running over their finger with a sewing machine.
The words “take that back outside before it bites you” were uttered multiple times in her early parenting years as wild animals were constantly ‘invited’ into the home by her children. She loved writing lists of chores for her daughters during their school years. These lists were hurriedly performed upon hearing her car pulling into the driveway at the end of the day. This made her extremely happy. Her favorite animals were snakes. She often cared for them by running them over with a lawn mower or ‘helping’ them along with a garden hoe.
She resorted to felony for her mid-life crisis years, stealing rocks from every national park and forest across the continent and beyond. Her family will be memorializing her by taking part in a drive-by rock return where a rock is thrown out at every park pass, as we have no idea which rock came from which location. She also took pleasure in taking pictures of random trees and blurry images that we still cannot identify.
She loved to travel and was thrilled to have been driven up the mountains of Caribbean islands, Colorado, and across the Polish/Ukrainian border by questionable drivers, and sometimes her husband, who believed the roadway was a mere suggestion of where to drive and border guards were simply a nuisance.
She took great pleasure in gardening, needlecrafts, drawing, and watercolors. Her gardens bloomed year-round so that a flower was always visible when one gazed out a window. However, her love for drawing confounds us as she was in stark opposition of us drawing on any walls, painted, papered or not. One of her favorite arts was pysanky (Ukrainian Easter Eggs) which she lovingly taught for over 40 years to some of Western Pennsylvania’s finest artists. She made loyal friends from all over the globe while attending ‘egg camp’. She found new ways of creating and designing pysanky egg-stra egg-citing (see what we did there?).
She relished her retirement years and becoming a lady that lunched….and napped. Her musical tastes would change, or not, all because Snoop Dogg told her she looked ‘good for her age’ while hiking in Colorado. She enjoyed spending her last few years trying to get to ‘the end’ of Facebook and yelling at the dog “where did you find that?” about twenty times a day.
She will fondly be remembered by her family for telling people her daughters were “cooking Christmas dinner this year” even though they had been doing so every year for the past decade and for also telling her husband to stop wearing his ‘good shorts’ outside to do mechanical work. Her grandchildren will miss the hugs, snuggles, the ‘Little Bubby’ stories, crafts and painting, and the giant bags of candy she sent home with them to their parents’ dismay.
Mommy, we love you and will miss you. We’ll see you again someday (sooner or later, depending on how many stupid things we attempt). We also promise to make dad wear the ‘old shorts’ outside.
Due to social-distancing guidelines a private liturgical service will be held on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Dixonville, PA. Burial will take place immediately afterwards at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetary in Dixonville, PA. We suggested a glitter casket but she said it was too fancy. Instead she chose her final resting place at the top of the hill so that by the time we’d reach her, she could have the last laugh as we collapsed on the bench. The McCabe~Roof Funeral Home, 565 Franklin St. Clymer is assisting the Neal family.
A whole-hearted thank you to all of the family, friends, and neighbors who took their time to pray unceasingly, provide dinners and snacks, and visit while she was sick “with this stupid cancer.” None of us could have made it through the past few years without your kindness, love, and prayers.
In lieu of flowers, at her request, donations can be made to the St. Andrew’s Society providing humanitarian aid and meals to those in need. These can be sent to St. Andrew’s Society, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, PO Box 495, South Bound Brook, NJ 08880. Visit https://uocofusa.org/st_andrew_uos for further information.
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