Obituary: Mary Beth Beggy Fischerkeller / 'Inspirational' person with unstoppable energy

May 14, 1967 - June 6, 2014


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There's an old saying about how people may forget your words, but they'll never forget the way you made them feel. Mary Beth Beggy Fischerkeller was one of those rare people whom life never lets you forget.

Always concerned about making others feel better, the dynamo who friends called a "rock star," made hospice nurses laugh hysterically with her famous Irish one-liners even as she lay dying.

The impression the Mt. Lebanon native made was unforgettable and powerful, even for those who only knew her briefly.

"'Inspirational' is a word that I think is overused, but for her I think it was true," said Rebecca Whitlinger, a close friend and executive director of the Cancer Caring Center, where Ms. Beggy Fischerkeller began volunteering in the 1990s -- years before her own diagnosis. "She made a lasting impression on people. That girl was unstoppable."

But even superheroes need a break now and then.

After fighting breast cancer and then colon cancer for the past five years, Ms. Beggy Fischerkeller's body gave out Friday, when she died, surrounded by loved ones at Family Hospice & Palliative Care in Lawrenceville.

The 47-year-old, who was fondly referred to as MB to friends, moved to Shaler last year with her new husband, James Fischerkeller.

She battled early-stage breast cancer in 2009 then found out she had stage IV colon cancer immediately afterward. As the cancer spread, Ms. Beggy Fischerkeller underwent grueling treatments, including 55 radiation sessions, 14 surgeries, and 15 months of chemotherapy.

When doctors told her they could do no more earlier this year, her group of hundreds of loyal supporters -- they call themselves "Beggy's Battalion" -- raised more than $56,000 for alternative treatment options in California.

"The ongoing joke was that her immediate circle of friends was 150 people," said longtime friend Lisa Sill.

All the while, Ms. Beggy Fischerkeller continued her work as general sales manager of Clear Channel Radio in Pittsburgh and in the numerous organizations she volunteered with, including the cancer center, where she served as board president.

She never let her disease define her, loved ones said.

"I'm sure that earlier this week she was planning her Halloween costume," Ms. Whitlinger said. "We called her our rock star and we were just groupies. It was so easy to gravitate to her energy."

"There was nobody like her," remembered friend Carole DeAngelo, who met Ms. Beggy Fischerkeller during the many fundraisers she sponsored over the years. "Nobody could believe she could fight this, but none of us thought she would die."

Ms. DeAngelo recalled once when she was going through a tough time at work, her friend took time to send her a card, even though she was going through chemotherapy treatments at the time.

"That's who she was," Ms. DeAngelo said. "We should all try to live the way she did and try to be better people in her honor."

Ms. Sill and her husband, Bob, came up with the idea to form "Beggy's Battalion," to help give back to the person who did so much for others.

"All she was concerned about was other people," remembered Mr. Sill, of Bethel Park, who recalled first meeting Ms. Beggy Fischerkeller in the 1980s at a restaurant opening that his advertising agency had organized.

"She just parted the crowd with this huge smile and walked right up to me and said, 'Hi, My name is Mary Beth. How can I help?' " recalled Mr. Sill. "She became my right hand and my best female friend."

Friends have barraged her Facebook page with hundreds of sympathy messages and memories since hearing the news of her passing Friday evening, but Ms. Beggy Fischerkeller also received inspiration from her friends, sending out a message recently thanking them for raising the funds and prayers for her to receive the alternative treatment.

"What you have given me is HOPE. ... That is priceless," wrote Ms. Beggy Fischerkeller, who threw out the first pitch at a Pirates game May 21. "This would not be possible without your emotional support, your donations, prayers -- everything you have done for me and my family. So my pledge to you ... for all you have given me is ... to keep fighting. Thanks for allowing me to keep fighting!"

A 1989 graduate of the University of Dayton, Ms. Beggy Fischerkeller's life during the past several years wasn't all about fighting cancer.In October 2009 she met Mr. Fischerkeller through a friend, and each hoped to find "someone to go to the movies and dinner with," he recalled.

"It wasn't like she was looking for a soulmate," said Mr. Fischerkeller, 50, senior director of corporate engagement for World Vision. "She was all about achieving, achieving, achieving in her career."

But the two fell in love and married May 25, 2013. As for "the pink elephant in the room" -- which he called her cancer -- they never let it get the better of them, traveling extensively to Italy, several favorite beach spots and Las Vegas when the mood struck.

"I figured we might only have one year together, so we made it the best year of our lives," Mr. Fischerkeller said.

Ms. Beggy Fischerkeller is survived by her mother, Peggy Beggy of Mt. Lebanon; brothers Patrick and Michael of Mt. Lebanon and Tim of Santa Monica, Calif.; two stepchildren, Chelsea Fischerkeller and Eric Fischerkeller; and two nephews.

Friends will be received Monday from 2 to 8 p.m. at Slater Funeral Home on Greentree Road in Scott. A funeral Mass is scheduled for Tuesday at 1 p.m. at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Mt. Lebanon. Interment will be private.

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.


Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.

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