McALISTERVILLE - Sue Winey was not only a beloved librarian and educator at Juniata Mennonite School. She was one of "The Ship Girls."
Winey lost her fight with lung cancer March 16 and her fellow classmates and friends from Shippensburg University wanted to make sure students at JMS would still appreciate her passion for reading and education without ever knowing her.
Winey, who graduated from East Juniata High School in 1970, had been the JMS librarian since August 1989.
Photo submitted by Nancy Hamill
Sue Winey, seated center, is surrounded by her long time friends, known as ‘The Ship Girls’ at her Juniata County home on Feb. 4. Winey passed away March 16. Pictured are front, from left, Amy Fritzinger and Greta Houtz; second row Jeannette Bechel, Sue Winey, Celie Zeigler; back row, Nancy Hamill, Cheri Fogarty and Jenine Grove.
The seven friends started the Sue Winey Memorial Fund. Each contributed at least $100 to the JMS library and one friend gave 10,000 points from the Scholastic Book Club that allows JMS to purchase books and equipment from the Scholastic Books catalog. A book series will be purchased and placed on the shelves in her memory as well.
Nancy Hamill was a fellow "Ship Girl" who helped make the memorial fund a reality.
Hamill, of Warrington, graduated from Shippensburg University in 1974 with Winey. The two women both earned degrees in elementary education and library science.
Hamill said the eight women have kept in contact for nearly 40 years.
"In the past we sent notes - usually with Christmas cards, but we always got together once in the summer for our annual picnic," Hamill said. "The first years, we were couples, then families, and now back to couples. Each one takes turns hosting the event. When we turned 50, we decided to have time just for the girls so we started getting together for a night or two at a bed and breakfast in Cape May or traveled to St. Michael's, Md. We didn't all make it every year, but it was a special time that we looked forward to."
Hamill said she was not sure when she heard about Winey's cancer diagnosis.
"When I talked to her about our get-away weekend, she mentioned that she hadn't been feeling well, but didn't really make a big deal about it," Hamill said. "It took a while before we realized how serious her condition was. Even until the end, she didn't complain about her illness."
Amy Fritzinger was also a "Ship Girl." Fritzinger lives in Breinigsville and understands the battle that is cancer. She is a breast cancer survivor.
"I had breast cancer and was dealing with so many doctor appointments, and side effects of medication, when I learned Sue had lung cancer," Fritzinger said. "Seemed impossible. Not Sue. She never smoked drank or did anything that you could say that was the reason. "
The "Ship Girls" rallied around Sue as she underwent chemotherapy treatments. They brought meals to her and husband Steve.
"The best way to explain the bond between us - Even though we live in different directions - although we are all in the state was when we heard from Sue's daughter that she was not responding to the treatment from Mexico," Hamill said.
"Every one of us met at Sue's house on Feb. 4, many with husbands, with just a week's notice. We knew that we had to be there. My husband and I drove a total of almost six hours to spend two hours with Sue and Steve. It was something that we had to do."
The group of women took one last photo as the eight "Ship Girls" inside Winey's living room. Though visibly tired, Winey settled herself in her recliner as the "girls" gathered around her.
The next time the women got together was for Winey's funeral.
"I miss her a lot and think of her family often," Fritzinger said, "(I am) keeping them in my thoughts and prayers."
JMS administrator Tom Getz met Winey about a year ago as he began his new role with the school. She was not in the school much during those following months, but Getz said the faculty never let her presence be forgotten.
"The faculty prayed for Sue regularly and I got to know this wonderful woman through them," Getz said in a statement at a memorial tribute Winey. "I felt as if I had known her for a long time but I had yet to meet her until she came through the office area in late May. I remember introducing myself to a lady that was full of life and without any complaints. She was a lady with a special love for JMS, books, children and her faith,"
The fund for Winey will honor her in a way that promotes her love for reading, something Getz described as "contagious."
"She was very diligent in her care for the library and did extra things like labeling early chapter books so the younger students could locate them quickly," Getz noted.
Though she loved reading and loved the library, those who knew her personally knew that her faith meant even more.
Hamill said it is easy for her to speak of her friend's character.
"She believed, as always, that the Lord was taking care of her and watching over her - That his will be done," Hamill said. "Sue didn't have to preach her faith, she lived it every day. We knew that Christ, her family and her church were central in her life."
The "Ship Girls" are planning their yearly summer get away - minus one.
"It will seem so strange to get together this summer knowing that Sue will not be with us. That last visit - we all knew that we could count on each other for the tough times and the good times," Hamill said.
The Sue Winey Memorial Fund will continue to accept donations to benefit the library program at JMS. Checks can be written to Juniata Mennonite School and mark "Sue Winey Memorial" in the memo.
Address: 289 Leonard Hill Road, McAlisterville, PA 17049