Obituary: Marilou Schellhaas / Tireless West View florist was 'kind and giving'
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As funeral preparations for Marilou Schellhaas were under way, her daughter was making the floral tributes at the shop they owned, just as Mrs. Schellhaas had done for countless funerals, weddings and proms.
Mrs. Schellhaas, who died Sunday at age 78, had married into a local funeral home dynasty and was there when people needed her.
"When you're in this business, it's not like you can go home for three days" for a death, said Beth Schellhaas of Perrysville, co-owner of West View Floral Shoppe. She was working bells-of-Ireland together with irises and pink roses because green was her mother's favorite color and she liked arrangements that looked as if they were gathered from a garden.
"My mom was working six, sometimes seven, days a week until she got sick on Feb. 12. My brother was calling the ambulance and she tells him, 'Your sister will be mad at me because it's two days before Valentine's Day,' " and the shop was busy. But, she said, "This is what our family does."
A lifelong resident of West View, Marilou Falck met her husband, Robert Schellhaas, at the funeral for one of her relatives. Both were in high school, but Mr. Schellhaas was already preparing to become a fourth-generation funeral director in a family business founded shortly after the Civil War.
"My mother said that at school my dad didn't talk to her because she was four years younger. But as soon as she got home, he was on the phone or in a car parked outside," Beth Schellhaas said.
She majored in home economics at Margaret Morrison Carnegie College -- a predecessor of Carnegie Mellon University -- but left before graduation to marry Mr. Schellhaas in 1954.
She had artistic flair, filling the house with arrangements from her garden, her daughter said. Her husband brought home floral ribbon after funerals and she would create wreaths and other crafts. In 1976, when her daughter was in college and her son in high school, she opened the West View Floral Shoppe.
She enjoyed the artistry of her work. But as part of a funeral home family, she understood the emergency need for flowers.
"People don't plan when they are going to pass. That's why she worked seven days a week," Beth Schellhaas said. Mrs. Schellhaas' son and grandson are now in the family funeral business.
Mrs. Schellhaas was an old-school florist who was appalled when others used glue guns. She knew the art of wiring stumpy-stemmed gardenias into arrangements. Until recent months, her daughter made large funeral sprays while Mrs. Schellhaas handled wedding flowers and detail work.
Her specialty was corsages. High school students signed up long in advance for her creations.
"She would talk with people and select beads and ribbons just for them," Beth Schellhaas said.
Mrs. Schellhaas' grandchildren and great-grandchildren grew up in the shop.
"My grand-daughter is 31/2, and they would color back there," Beth Schellhaas said.
"People would ask me, 'How do you work with your mom?' But I wouldn't have traded it for the world. She was very soft-spoken, although when she was upset, you knew it. But she was very kind and giving."
Mrs. Schellhaas was very active in West View United Methodist Church, to which she often donated flowers and balloons.
She had a strong soprano voice and sang in the choir for decades, said Brian Weaver, the program and music director at the church. Every year she brought colorful balloons for Vacation Bible School, and she had called him days before her death to say she was sending them with her daughter, he said.
"She was a very outgoing, caring person who never put herself first," he said.
To not disrupt the bible school, and because she was close to many pastors, her funeral will be at a Catholic parish.
Mrs. Schellhaas' husband died in 1999. About five years ago she had cardiac bypass surgery and seemed to rebound. Then in February she suffered a mild heart attack and never recovered.
"But she never gave up," said Beth Schellhaas, who made sure her mother's rooms were filled with flowers. "She was made of tough stuff."
In addition to daughter Beth, she is survived by a son, Robert, of West View; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
The funeral will be today at 10 a.m. in St. Athanasius Catholic Church, West View, with interment in Union Dale Cemetery.
Gifts may be made to the Rett Syndrome Foundation, www.rettsyndrome.org.
First Published June 28, 2012 12:01 am