(THE FOLLOWING WAS WRITTEN BY CHRISTINA SHINKLE)
Mary Elizabeth Hale was full of grace. My aunt was born on May 11, 1950 in Lincoln, Nebraska to Val and Zena Weiler, the founders of Valentino’s Pizza. Baptized Catholic, she died Jewish. Her last day alive was July 16, 2010. She died of lung cancer that, for all intents and purposes, came out of nowhere (though possibly it was caused from her time as the owner of the Mountains Bar and Grill in the Capitol District of Lincoln, Nebraska and exposure to second hand smoke. My aunt did not smoke). My aunt did not smoke. Not only did she not smoke, but she exercised at Curves and “ate healthy.” She was healthy as a horse until June 8, 2010 when she went to see her doctor because she was hurting. She came out with a diagnosis of metastasized Stage 4 Lung cancer.
My aunt did a fabulous job of dying. “Ever lucid and loving till the end,” is the biblical phrase. She was at ease with death and had no worries about the afterlife. During her last three weeks, she would offer to help anyone get anything they wanted to eat, based on her power to order ‘last meals’ as a type of cancerial “Queen for a Day” privilege. She wore her last week of life lightly. She slept, she talked, she laughed, and she held hands.
My aunt was funny and kind. Her humor had a gentle streak to it. She had a both a sharp eye and a tolerance for human nature. She met my Uncle Sammy when she went to volunteer as a youth counselor for juvenile court. My first memory of Aunt Mary with Uncle Sammy: the two of them meaningfully kissing each other good bye through the driver’s window of my aunt’s burgundy sedan in the late 70s. They married on December 6, 1980 at my grandparents’ home. Sammy and Mary opened their own home to many foster kids. Aunt Mary and Sammy took care of various elderly Jews, Italians and my grandparents at the end of their lives. My aunt offered a no-fuss, practical type of loving to people.
Aunt Mary worked at Pegler’s food company in the late 1970’s and I remember her wearing tall leather boots, gold jewelry and silk work blouses. After her stint at Pegler’s, I mostly remember her wearing T shirts and jeans. She graduated from Pius X high school in Lincoln in 1967. She played clarinet in the high school marching band. Her best pet was a black Labrador retriever named “Lucy.”
Mary has been a solid adult in my life. My memories are fond and feature summer vacations. When we were little, she cooked for us kids and took us to movies and the mall. She loved buttered popcorn. As grown-ups, she was often a presence at holidays for us. She remembered birthdays. She made very fine Italian holiday cookies. Mary and Sammy moved to Camas, Washington in 2004. Mary volunteered at SW Medical Center in Vancouver and also at Planned Parenthood, ShareHouse for the homeless, SW Washington Blood Center, Washougal Senior Center, Hospice SW, Literacy Council, Loaves and Fishes meals for seniors, Fort Vancouver Lions Club. There will be a celebration of life service on Sunday, Sept 5 at 11:00AM at Courtyard Village Vancouver, Vancouver, Washington. It will be led by Rabbi Alan Berg. 2pm potluck to follow at Camas Moose Lodge.
She is survived by her husband Sammy Hale; her sister Martha (Clint) Shinkle, cousins, Dan (Emily) Gatto and Jackie (Jerry) McCool, Dee(Warren) Rogers, Joe(Mary) Gatto; her adopted daughters, Shelley Hale and Chris Wilson; her grandson, Hunter; nieces and nephews: Christina (John), Eric (Uschi), Neil (Allison) and Cara; great- nephews, Ashland and Sam, great-niece Ava; and many foster kids. We will all miss her terribly. She is someone we can borrow from. Her way of life and her acceptance of other humans’ humanness provide us a pattern to follow. Mary Elizabeth Hale was full of grace. Amen. Obituary written by Christina Shinkle with advice by Cara Valentine, Neil and Eric Shinkle.
Memorials: Southwest Washington Hospice of Vancouver, WA, Kitsap County Hospice of Bremerton, WA. Congregation Beit Haverim of Lake Oswego, OR or you could have a tree planted in Israel in her honor.
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