Obituary: Susan L. Thomas and Mary Grace Carmody / Charitable friends perish in car crash

Died Sept. 6, 2013

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It was no surprise to those close to them that in the moments before their deaths, Susan Thomas and Mary Grace Carmody were thinking of others.

Late Friday afternoon, Ms. Thomas, 54, was driving to Edinboro University to take a computer to her daughter, and her friend Ms. Carmody, 44, was accompanying her on the nearly two-hour trip when they were killed in a car crash in Mercer County.

"She was doing what she always did, which was take care of people," Maryanne Loebig, health services director at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, said of Ms. Thomas, a school nurse there.

Pennsylvania State Police in the Mercer barracks said, for reasons that are still unknown, Robert J. Neubert II, 62, of Amherst, N.Y., lost control of his car in the southbound lane in Deer Creek Township and hit the car the women were riding in.

All three were killed.

Ms. Carmody, of Sewickley, had worked for the past three years as manager of Sunny Jim's Tavern on Camp Horne Road in Kilbuck, where she also did event planning and fundraising.

Faced with a sudden and tragic loss, Jim Oliver, co-owner of Sunny Jim's, was having difficulty Sunday expressing what Ms. Carmody meant to him and her co-workers.

"I gotta tell you, she was one of a kind, and I will never get over this," he said.

An Ohio Township native and graduate of Avonworth High School, Ms. Carmody had worked with seniors at the North Boroughs YMCA and was involved with the North Boroughs Rotary Club and the Steelwheelers, an organization of wheelchair athletes.

A doting aunt, she would rent a limo and a Downtown Pittsburgh hotel room for each of her five nieces and nephews each year for their birthdays, said her brother Sean Carmody.

Mr. Carmody described his sister as motivated, driven and "extremely active," despite a childhood disease that left her blind in one eye.

"The unique thing about it was, she struggled with low vision and was legally blind probably for the last 11 to 12 years but never let that be a hindrance to her," he said.

Ms. Thomas, of Ohio Township, was a graduate of Hempfield Area High School and Slippery Rock University. She was a month away from her 15th anniversary at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, where she was a school nurse.

A mother of three girls -- ages 17, 19 and 23 -- Ms. Thomas was always smiling, no matter what she was juggling at work and at home, said Ms. Loebig, who had the sad task of calling colleagues Saturday to tell them the news.

"They burst into tears. The loss of her to them and to us is just enormous. It's just enormous," Ms. Loebig said.

Ms. Thomas' daughter, Brittany, remembers her mother as strong and positive, a mediator and beach-lover who "didn't have a selfish bone in her body" and loved to "soak up the sun."

"I just want everyone to remember what an altruistic person she was," she said.

Ms. Carmody is survived by her mother, Jane M. Carmody of Ohio Township, and two brothers, Sean J. of Franklin Park and Paul M. of Glenfield.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at H.P. Brandt Funeral Home, 1032 Perry Highway, Ross. Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday in SS. John & Paul Roman Catholic Church, Franklin Park.

Ms. Thomas is survived by three daughters, Brittany, of Mechanicsville, Md., Krystina and Ericka; her significant other, Jerry Ketchel of Ohio Township; and a brother, Charles Pikulski.

Services are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday for Ms. Thomas at Graziano Funeral Home, 228 N. Second St., Jeannette. Friends will gather after at Pitzer's Townhouse restaurant for a meal.

Sunny Jim's Tavern will be closed Wednesday for the wake and is raising money for Ms. Thomas' three children, Mr. Oliver said. Details will be forthcoming on its website: www.sunnyjimstavern.com.

The Carmody family suggests donations be made to the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind or the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children.

obituaries

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede. Linda Wilson Fuoco contributed.


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