It was a sunny Saturday Spring morning this May 13th, 2023, when Sheila Marie Panessa passed away peacefully after succumbing to a courageous battle with ALS.
Sheila became a resident of St. George, Utah after relocating from Warwick, New York with her husband in February 2005. She was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 17, 1951, the oldest of six children of Irish immigrants, Kenneth Edward and Mary Browne ( nee Sampey), loving wife to Richard Joseph Panessa and the mother of two children, Kenneth Andrew and Erin Theresa Panessa.
She grew up in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York, graduating Little Flower Catholic School, part of St Therese of Lisieux Roman Catholic Church which she attended regularly. Sheila went on to attend Catherine McCauley Roman Catholic High School for three years, but left to complete business courses in her final year at nearby Erasmus Hall High School, also in Brooklyn.
Her work history was quite extensive over her lifetime, beginning at Metropolitan Savings Bank, Holmes Ambulance Service, then attaining secretarial positions at E.F. Hutton, American Reinsurance, New York Coffee And Sugar Exchange, Blythe, Eastman, Dillon, very prestigious firms that were all located on or around Wall Street in Manhattan. During those years she became a New York State Notary and was utilized by those firms to regularly maintain and update individual member brokerage licenses.
After a yearlong courtship, Sheila married a U.S. Navy sailor, Richard, on June 24th, 1972. After he completed his tour at sea she continued to work in Manhattan. They lived in several small apartments in Brooklyn during the next seven years, but now with two children, Ken and Erin, they purchased their first home in the Canarsie section where they resided through 1991.
Sheila with her husband and children moved once again, spending the next 13 years in the town of Warwick, New York, a farming community sixty miles northwest of New York City where they lived in a beautiful home on two-acres split by a trout stream running through the property. Rich built Sheila a long wooden foot bridge across the stream and christened it at a family gathering in memory of a special place they had visited together near Galway, Ireland , "Bali Ushtey" or from the Gaelic, "cool waters." During that period while Rich was commuting to the city, Sheila maintained several part-time positions. The first as a waitress, then as a cashier in a local hardware and feed store. She went on to find positions as a medical secretary for Orange Dermatology and eventually retired from St Anthony Community Hospital's Physical Therapy Unit.
Sheila loved and grew to cherish her Irish heritage more and more as the years passed. St Patrick's Day, or St. Paddy's Day, was as special as life itself. It was her family's ritual that lasted longer sometimes than just one day, and much more meaningful than wearing something green or watching the NYC parade down 5th Avenue on television. Of course, it always included the corned beef, potatoes, cabbage, with a side of Coleman's mustard, her mom's delicious soda bread, and the hours of traditional Irish music playing throughout the night. The holiday continued into the wee hours and beyond with raised glasses of Tullamore Dew, pints of Guinness, and the many "slainte(s)" to one another, relations in Ireland, and blessings to those who had already entered heaven's gates.
The late Fall months brought her much happiness. It signified warmth around the fireplace and the safety of her home which she loved so dear. Sheila looked forward to roasting a stuffed turkey in the oven, setting a table to be surrounded by friends and family, or the anticipation of the Christmas Season. No one was ever more excited or so childlike about the glitter and sparkle, or the sight of a lighted Christmas tree, the sound of holiday music on the stereo, or the holiness of a quiet Christmas eve. Sheila kept the spirit of Christmas very well.
Our pets throughout the years made her laugh and brought her a lot of comfort and pleasure. Wilbur, Sasha, "her gaggle of ducks and geese" in Warwick, our dogs Horatio, Mate, Seamus, Smokey, Lily, and last, the loving little guy who slipped from an angel's fingers and fell into her arms, "Jack."
Her only surviving child, Erin Panessa, became her closest friend and ally during her battle with ALS and lifted her spirits as Sheila became more depressed. Erin would get Sheila out on the back patio and I'd hear them talking and laughing, or listening to music together. They would also watch one or more of the "Housewives," series, or "Below Deck," Sheila's favorite. Sheila often told me how much she appreciated the boost to her spirits Erin had brought to her as her health was declining. She asked me in her last whispers to say thank you to Erin for all that she has meant by being by her side in the final days, and hoped Erin realized how much she loved her.
Sheila was a beautiful , vivacious, spirited, and wonderful Irish girl with auburn hair and hazel brown eyes who loved to listen to music. In her prime she was no stranger to throwing a "few" back and did it with style. Of late, Pinot Grigio was her favorite. Husband Rich converted her to a country music fan long ago during the start of his songwriting career, and she became the inspiration for many of his songs. Sheila had a big heart and would always take up the fight of the underdog. It was definitely the Irish in her. . . reminiscent of the Notre Dame "fighting Irish" logo. And no one could light up a room like Sheila when she made her entrance. Boy, she was something!
Sheila Marie Panessa ( nee Browne ) is survived by her husband of 51 years, Richard Joseph Panessa, her loving daughter, Erin Theresa Panessa, sisters Barbara Schroeder, Maureen Ward ( John ), brothers Kevin Browne ( Fran ), Brian Browne, Brendan Browne, sister-in-law, Elizabeth Panessa, nieces Lauren English ( Brian ) and Dawn Schroeder, nephews Kevin Browne Jr. ( Erin ), Justin Browne ( Elizabeth), Patrick Browne ( Jessie ), and grandnieces Sarah, Grace, and Emily English, grandnieces Stella, Mary, and Grace Browne, grand nephews Jack and Ken Browne, grandniece Lily Browne, grand nephew Tommy Browne, and of course, a number of relations residing throughout Ireland and England, plus the many friends and co-workers she touched during her lifetime. Sheila is pre-deceased by her father and mother, Ken and Mary Browne, and by her son, Kenneth Andrew Panessa, she took loving care of until his passing in 2017.
Erin and I will give a big hug and much thanks to Cousin Lauren, who continues to toil as an RN at a hospital in New Jersey. She left her own young family to give us a hand. We will forever be grateful for her help, direction, and support she had rendered during Sheila's struggle in her final hours.
Thank you to Sun Tree Home Health And Hospice for their support and guidance with special thanks to Lacy, Jennifer, Wonder, Hoagan, and Lyndsay for all the special care, concern, kindness, and prayers that surrounded Sheila and helping our family tread through these unfamiliar waters. Our appreciation also to the St. George Roman Catholic Church and Deacon Jesse Robles for his gentle blessings and final prayers, and a special thanks to Carole Drake for her helping hand when our family needed it most.
There will be a remembrance at the Spilsbury Mortuary located at 110 South Bluff St. George, Utah on Thursday May 18th, 2023. The family will receive visitors starting at 1:00 pm until time of service at 2:00 pm. In lieu of flowers or gifts, please make donations to Sun Tree Home Health and Hospice, or to a local healthcare facility of your choice.
The Panessa Family