Florence (Tonny) McNeil lived the last years of her long full life on beautiful Walton Mountain, loving the gifts that the Catskill Mountains offer up every day – amazing clouds and stars, countless birds and animal, trees and flowers,sunrises,sunsets and an ever-changing view from the mountaintop. She died peacefully at home the morning of September 15th, 2020. She was surrounded with the loving presence of her children and grand kids who gathered to keep her comfortable, share happy moments, tender kisses and hugs and say ‘good-bye’ in her last weeks.
Florence was predeceased by her parents, Rev. Fred McNeil and his wife Elisabeth McNeil of Phoenix Arizona, and by her brother Fred. She has six children and grandchildren scattered across the country: Eric Devin, Susan( Anna) of Aurora, Jenny and Tim Kilpatrick of Walton ( Ben , Luke ,Erin and Ben), Jeanne Devin of Berkeley ( Lucy)Tim and Leona Devin of Congers ( Jake,Aidan,Caroline),Ann and Lee Beattie of Chicago ( Caitie, Gordon, John, Sean and Bryan) and Sean Moffitt of Boulder as well as 5 great-grandchildren.
Florence lived many places before settling in Walton in 1969. They included Iowa, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Brooklyn, California and Woodstock, NY. In Walton she finally found a place that she truly called home, and a community that sustained her and her family over the years.
Children always meant the world to Florence. Once she was through raising her own kids, she started a daycare business in Walton. She always loved the town and the beautiful surroundings and many children passed through her loving care over many years. Time went by and she then got to enjoy her many grandchildren as they came along.
Florence loved animals – there were always a dog and a cat or two in her house. We won’t go into details about the menagerie that filled her home when her kids were younger(it included such oddities as a monkey, fish, rabbits, guinea pigs and even a baby alligator at one point). Every summer for a week she could be found ringside at the Delaware County Fair watching the horse competitions. She was thrilled to live on the mountain, amongst the wildlife, with her beloved companion, Star.
Evergreen Colorado always held a special place in her heart. It was the family retreat where her grandfather, Bishop George Beecher, took them when she and her cousins were young children. Many great memories brought 4 generations of the greater Beecher/McNeil family back to gather for a few reunions in the recent past which were tremendously fun events and a chance for the younger family members to meet these relatives for the first time, and to see the majestic Rockies, while staying on the same property where family had vacationed almost 100 years ago (now a small rustic mountain resort).
Photography was a long-time passion for Florence as evidenced by the wall of photo albums she put together and revisited endlessly. She’d give gifts of small photo books to celebrate birthdays, holidays and anniversaries drawing from new shots and old family. Her greeting cards were always made from her nature photos. This was just one aspect of her creative outlets – Knitting, quilting, crocheting, writing haiku and drawing – she always had projects laid out in her home, making gifts for family and friends.
In the 90s she became a member of the Butternut Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. This connection with the Quakers was very strong and it was through them that she discovered her passion for the Alternatives to Violence Program. This group conducts workshops in the prisons across the state, engaging inmates and providing an environment where they can confront the issues in their lives with a goal of learning better, non-violent ways to resolve conflicts in their daily encounters.
Naturally, this opened the door to working with younger people in the hopes that by learning these tools for conflict resolution at an early age they can avoid the kinds of violence that destroys lives, families and communities. “Free Flo” worked in the Walton Central School District, developing programs for youth and conducting workshops while training facilitators through all the different age groups in the schools. Her work with AVP touched many lives.
In lieu of flowers she would appreciate donations toward the Alternatives to Violence Program in the Walton School District to help ensure that these important programs continue for our children and educators in our community.
WCSD (For AVP Support) – WCSD District Office, 47-49 Stockton Ave., Walton, NY 13856
There will be a private family memorial this weekend and the family plans to schedule a celebration of Florence’s life next year when it will be possible for more people to join us in Walton to remember this remarkable person/mother/grandmother/mentor/teacher/friend. In the meantime, please hold her in the Light and remember her for the light she shared with all of us – she truly made this world a brighter place.