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Teacher inspired with tenacity, generosity

| Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Lori B. Shimko, 47, of North Huntingdon

Perseverance defined Lori Shimko.

The North Huntingdon woman, who grew up in Hays, was only 16 when she was stricken with Wilson's disease, a rare genetic disorder that left the high school cheerleader and softball player immobilized for a year.

“When she recovered from the illness, she was flat on her back, and the only thing she could do was blink her eyes,” her uncle, Jack Tener, recalled.

Despite a daunting and painful rehabilitation, Miss Shimko went on to graduate from Bishop Boyle High School in Munhall and earned a degree in special education from Slippery Rock University.

“She was courageous. She was determined. She was an inspiration to the people around her,” Tener said.

Lori B. Shimko died on Sunday, May 18, 2014, with her family by her side. She was 47.

When she graduated from college, Miss Shimko briefly worked with special needs children. Later, she frequently sat with the elderly.

Her family said she was eventually sidelined again by the side effects of her illness and placed on the waiting list for a liver transplant.

John Shimko said his sister's liver transplant in 1997 gave her a new start and made her a committed advocate of organ donation and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education.

“She was a Disney freak. When my kids were younger, she went to Disney with us three or four years in a row,” he said. “She loved music and trivia, and enjoyed watching her nieces play baseball.”

When her liver began to fail again, she was placed on a waiting list at the Cleveland Clinic.

“The last five years, she was pretty sick. We were hoping she would get a transplant, but it just didn't happen,” John Shimko said.

In the end, she insisted that she would remain an organ donor and was adamant that she would give the gift of life to others.

In addition to her brother and uncle, Miss Shimko is survived by her parents, Jack and Donna Shimko of North Huntingdon, with whom she lived; and her sister-in-law, Stephanie Shimko of North Huntingdon.

Family and friends will be received from 1 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in Savolskis-Wasik-Glenn Funeral Home, 3501 Main St., Munhall, where a blessing service will be conducted at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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