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KEWANEE — Mary Elizabeth Neff (Evans) passed away unexpectedly in her home in Solvang, California on Tuesday, November 28th, 2017.
Her loss is felt from coast to coast as those who loved her are still reeling from her sudden passing. Mary truly made the world a better place simply by being in it with her kindness and compassion. Born in Kewanee, Illinois to Ruth Neff (Berlinski) and Alfred (Budd) Neff, she grew up in a humble home with four brothers. An alumni of Visitation Catholic School, Wethersfield High School and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale she excelled at track and swimming and nourished relationships that lasted her lifetime.
Mary’s career path led her to California with her love of movies and music. Her family and friends reveled in her moderate success of background parts in movies, television and commercials. Although her big break never came she loved California and eventually made it her home after several moves around the country. She settled in the hamlet of Solvang where her love of conversation and relationships made a perfect fit for the wine industry in California. She worked at several wineries and tasting rooms in town and had a devout following of regulars who loved her kind and pleasant nature. She will be sadly missed by all of her co-workers who were like her extended family. It was in Solvang where Mary met her fiancé Terry Kirkenwitz whom she was going to marry in the Spring of 2018. Sympathetic to a fault Mary carried the burden of many others besides herself. She embodied much that was good in this world and her death will be felt for a long time.
She is preceded in death by her mother (Ruth), father (Budd), aunt (Georgia Berlinski), uncle (Robert Berlinski) and nephew (Caleb Neff). She is survived by her brothers, sisters-in-law and their children: Michael and Barbara (Derrick, Gretchen, Kristin), Mark and Kari (Nathan and Jessica), Matthew and Kimberly (Jacob and Ruthie) and Martin and Jill (Mitchell). Cousins Julie Landwehr (Berlinski), Steve Berlinski and Jean Berlinski.
A Memorial Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, July 7th at 9:00 a.m. at Saint John Paul II Parish in Kewanee. Celebrant will be Fr. Johndamaseni Zilimu. Inurnment will follow at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kewanee.