Greensburg nurse ‘was always a friend to the underdog’
Carmella Neil helped found a church in Delmont, played violin, cared for thousands of people during her nursing career and made two trips to China in her 70s and 80s.
“She was pure love, she was fair and she was always a friend to the underdog,” said her son, David Neil of Greensburg.
Carmella R. Neil of Greensburg died Saturday, June 29, 2019, of complications from cancer. She was 93.
Mrs. Neil was born Nov. 22, 1925, in Delmont, a daughter of the late Camillo and Mary Ranieri. She graduated from Greensburg High School and in the early 1940s was set to accept admission to the New York University School of Nursing.
“However, all three of her brothers were sent overseas during World War II, and she elected not to go to New York for school,” David said.
Mrs. Neil instead graduated from the former Pittsburgh Hospital School of Nursing in 1946, working as an operating room nurse until she contracted rheumatic fever.
When she returned to work, it was as an office nurse for Dr. Frank Pantalone, a Greensburg orthopedic surgeon, and later in the same capacity for Dr. Archie Neil, a chiropractor.
When Dr. Neil went on vacation for a couple weeks in the late 1940s, he called his brother Jesse in California, asking Jesse to fill in while he was out of town.
“He came to Pennsylvania, met my mother, and that was the end of my dad living in sunny California,” David said.
Jesse and Mrs. Neil were married May 26, 1951.
The couple moved into a gray house on Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg that once belonged to the aunt of Gen. George Marshall, chief of staff for the Army during World War II.
“Dad operated his office out of the basement,” David said. “Like every other doctor, he overbooked patients. My mom always found a way to defuse those situations, but then she’d take a newspaper and swat my dad across the chest a couple times.
“ ‘Now you listen here birdbrain, I’m the one who has to handle these patients, and if I fell you there are no appointments left, there are no appointments left,’ she’d tell him,” David said. “And right about then he’d usually tell her he’d booked another appointment.”
When Mrs. Neil’s husband was injured in a 1975 car crash and had to cease practicing medicine, Mrs. Neil returned to the operating room, where she again worked as a nurse from 1976 until 1988.
Mrs. Neil loved music and played the violin, a passion she passed on to her granddaughters.
“My sister adopted two girls from China. Mom was 77 when she made the first trip,” David said. “And then a couple years later, the family packed up and went over again, and Mom made that trip at 80 years old.”
David said her granddaughters, Calli-Marie and Alessandra, “were the light of her life.”
“No matter how bad she felt, she never missed a concert, play or musical they were in,” David said. “They both play violin and that came directly from her.”
Mrs. Neil is survived by her son, David A. Neil; daughter, Patricia A. Neil; and two granddaughters.
Prayers will begin at 9 a.m. on July 5 at the Leo Bacha Funeral Home, 516 Stanton St. in Greensburg. A 9:30 a.m. funeral will follow at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral, 300 Main Street in Greensburg, with interment to follow at Twin Valley Memorial Park in Delmont.
Memorial contributions can be made to the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Suite 1B, 5150 Center Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa., 15232 or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tenn., 38105.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .