She was a joy

Despite diabetes, Beth Deal was a true inspiration in career, community, family

Despite diabetes, Beth Deal was a true inspiration in career, community, family

October 15, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

On top of a 3-inch stack of sympathy cards on the Deal family dining room table was one from the staff of the Robinwood Dialysis Facilities.

"Beth was an inspiration to us all," the card read, referring to Elizabeth G. "Beth" Deal, who died Oct. 6 at age 43.

"Beth went on dialysis in December 1996 after she experienced renal failure," said her father, Nelson Deal, who said the kidney failure directly was related to the diabetes she lived with much of her life.

Nelson was quick to note that even though diabetes was a reality for Beth, she never let it slow her down, let alone stop her.


Born in 1963, Beth was the middle child of Nelson and his wife, Betsy. The family grew to include a total of seven children, one of whom ? the oldest son, Ted ? died in a motorcycle accident in 1975.

Faced with serious medical problems at birth, Beth underwent surgery to correct those difficulties, and soon was an active child in the Deal household.

The Deal family has lived on Artizan Street, where Nelson and Betsy still reside, since Beth was 3 years old.

"Beth loved to go sledding and skating ... she was always active," said her brother, Bernie, who lives in California.

Listening to his son talk about Beth, Nelson smiled and talked about how his daughter's childhood had been wonderful.

"Her outlooks and her personality ... she was a joy," he said.

Beth's sister, Peggy Wood, smiled as she told of how her sister never spent much time "at the steps," referring to the traditional Deal family punishment of having to sit at the bottom of the steps on a chair to atone for transgressions.

The first hint that something was working on Beth came when her parents took her to the doctor for a suspected case of mononucleosis when she was in her early teens, Betsy said.

"We were asked if there was any diabetes in our family," Betsy said.

They soon learned the diagnosis was juvenile diabetes.

Nelson said that from the start, Beth was "on the needle," meaning she received insulin injections.

"She was tutored at home for six weeks, and then she went right back to school," he said.

Her parents said Beth became a freshman cheerleader that year and made the tennis team.

"She also found time to be active in the 4-H club at Zion Lutheran Church and participated in many of the March of Dimes walkathons," Nelson said.

Bernie remembers his sister swimming laps at the Williamsport pool. She also swam at the Hagerstown YMCA.

She soon made swimming her career, working first as a lifeguard, then manager of the Williamsport pool for a total of 22 years. She continued there even after she went on dialysis three times a week.

Beth earned her associate degree from Hagerstown Junior College and then in 1989, an associate degree as a medical secretarial assistant from Hagerstown Business College. For a time, she was employed as a medical secretary with Newman, Wagshal, Wooster and Kass.

"She even volunteered there when she was on dialysis," Nelson said.

With no children of her own, Beth was in the habit of "adopting" everyone else's. Picture after picture show Beth holding one of her nieces or nephews.

"Her brother Michael always called her an angel," Betsy said. "She never uttered a complaint."

Living at home, Beth became quite expert at turning any recipe into a sugar-free one, Nelson said. One exception to that was her peanut brittle, which she produced in prodigious quantities ? none of which she could eat herself.

"People would buy her peanut brittle and ship it to Germany, it was so good," Nelson said. One year, one person bought 50 pounds of her peanut brittle.

As to her cooking skills, Betsy said Beth just picked it up somewhere.

Nelson said he was a big fan of Beth's crab soup, which included some secret ingredients.

At the reception following Beth's funeral service, crab soup was served.

"It wasn't hers ... but it was nice," Nelson said.

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