In Loving Memory of
Nellie Kate Syptak Beal
Nellie Kate Syptak Beal
Poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: "I have thought a sufficient measure of civilization is the influence of good women." Always a positive, yet feisty influence on those she loved (she might kick you under the table if you said something she didnâ€™t like), Nellie Beal passed away on Saturday, February 13, 2016, one day shy of her 98th birthday.
Nellie was born on Valentineâ€™s Day, 1918, in Shreveport, LA, to Horace Smith and Kate Groesbeck Smith (an army officer/farmer and a homemaker). Raised in Bunkie and Eola, Lousiana, on a large farm with a dairy, Nellie was third of five childrenâ€"including her siblings Mary Ellen Smith, John Douglas Smith, Ruth Groesbeck Smith and Annie Smithâ€"and was the sole surviving member of her immediate family. In the Smith home, literature and education were important, and Nellie loved to read, win awards for spelling and practice her skills as a seamstress, even at an early age. Luckily, she learned to be resourceful even after her family farm home burned to the ground (destroying all of her newly-purchase school books and clothes, just before she began fourth grade).
Years later, upon graduating from Bird High School in Shreveport, Nellie moved with her family to San Antonio, then came to Bryan and found work as part of the cotton census with the USDA (Triple A Department) and became an expert with a comptometer. At USDA, Nellie met Albert B. Syptak, then later married him in the same home in which she rented a room in Bryan.
During World War II, they lived in Galveston where Albert worked repairing ships for the military. After Albert enlisted in the Army, serving three years in the Infantry in Europe, Nellie moved with her two sons to her parentsâ€™ home in San Antonio, Texas until the war ended. Later, the couple bought a farm in the Steep Hollow Community, went into the egg business and raised 30,000 hens, along with parakeets and love birds. The Syptaks had four children before Albert passed away in 1976: John B. Syptak (and wife Julie), Albert B. "Buzz" Syptak, Jr., Mollie Kate Syptak (who died as an infant) and Ruth Ellen Syptak Merka Byers (and husband Danny). Alone after having been widowed for ten years, Nellie took in her (newly-widowed) daughter and four grandchildren before marrying Jacob Beal, himself a widower. Jacob called Nellie by her middle name, "Kate," by which she was known until the time of her passing. The couple made a home in Matagorda Bay, living there until Jacob sadly died, a short eight years later. At length, Nellie sold her home in Matagorda to join her daughter Ruth in Lubbock before later settling in Allen, Texas. Additionally, Nellieâ€™s closest friend of 75 years, Burma Beal (married to Jacobâ€™s brother Oren) now survives her.
Here in town, Nellie served as president of The Reading Club and consumed books voraciously, especially mystery stories by Catherine Coulter, Steve Martini and Agatha Christie. Her passion for a good "whodunit" led her to love television shows like Perry Mason and Murder, She Wrote, during which she warned other viewers not to interrupt the story by chatting. Throughout her life, Nellie was also an avid seamstress and quilter, and she loved a good crossword puzzle. Aside from her quiet indoor hobbies, Nellie loved roadtrippingâ€"even in the days before interstates and air conditioningâ€"and once traveled from Bryan to El Paso, showing her children the rocks and mountains along the way. (As a result, her son John became a geologist.) She even made it as far as Disneyworld and a 30-day European tour with her good friend, Inez. On such adventures, she loved sampling new and favorite foods (fried shrimp) and desserts (Snickers bars), often wearing her favorite color (blue).
Additionally, Nellie was an active member of First United Methodist Church and the Womenâ€™s Club, which strengthened her formidable faith and set a positive example for her children and grandchildren; she viewed her function as the "family caretaker" to be her ultimate career. In addition to her four children, Nellie tended and loved eleven grandchildren, including Kyle B. Syptak, Matthew Winston (Nicole), Eric Winston (Jennifer), Andrew Winston (Katie), "Jamin" A.B. Syptak III (Janet), Stephanie Syptak Kasper (Doug), Steven Syptak (deceased)(Kimberly), Karen Merka Haley (Chris), Timothy Merka Byers, Mary Merka Laugherly (Kacey) and Sarah Merka Perry (Chase). Eventually, her beloved great-grandchildren came along (Avery, Gracyn, Walker, Julie, Jackson, Josephine, Ella, Benjamin, Zachary, Ben, Justin, Ashton, Bennett, Tyler, Katie, Mollie and Macie) and even three great-great grandbabies. Nellie never doubted her ability to be reunited with her family in heaven, and those she left behind now find comfort in the strength of her faith.
Family and friends will gather to honor Nellieâ€™s life from 9-11 AM on Friday, February 19, 2016 with a Life Celebration officiated by Pastor David Porterfield at 11 AM at Hillier Funeral Home of Bryan. Interment will follow at Bryan City Cemetery.
Go online to learn more about Nellie (and leave condolences) at www.hillierfuneralhome.com.
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