'Well done my good and faithful servant'
Those attending Shirley Lindgren's funeral at Bethlehem's First Presbyterian Church said the sunny day reflected her optimistic personality and her joy when telling a friend a few weeks ago, "Life is good." Speakers were upbeat. There was laughter, and, of course, tears for the woman who was allegedly beaten in her Wall Street home by her son Michael, 51, Aug 20.
At least 400 people were there Saturday as senior pastor the Rev. Dr. Alf E. Halvorson gave a moving homily. It was obviously clear that he knew Shirley and her husband, Ralph and their five children.
The crowd moved as one, with many nodding their heads, when Halvorson said, "I met with Ralph in the hospital and he said to me, 'My son did this to me but it was not my son. This Michael was mentally ill. He had stopped taking his medicine.'"
Family members confirmed that to be true, saying Michael was schizophrenic and bi-polar but they never felt he was dangerous.
Ralph Lindgren was released from the hospital a few days before the funeral and he greeted guests. His face was still badly bruised and he was limping, but he looked good. People were commenting that he and his wife were so close, so dedicated to their children, such community leaders together, that he would feel he had to be at the celebration of Shirley's life. As the sun shone through the windows, the mood was light and happy. Many said Shirley's spirit could be felt as her husband greeted them all.
Liz Lorenz, a longtime friend and president of the Bethlehem Garden Club in which both Lindgrens were active, said she and others agreed that if the couple, as parents, could do it, they would hire lawyers for Michael. All the other children, Kathryn Kucey, J. Thomas, David and Timothy, shared memories with those standing in line for about an hour.
"The sparkle in her eyes was both mischievous and genuine. She cared so much," said Sharon Yoshida, a Wall Street neighbor who attended with many from the Bethlehem Historic District where the couple was active.
Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan said, "Shirley was both a gentle soul and a powerful force for good in our community. All who knew her benefited and Bethlehem is better because of her."
Rev. Halvorson listed the many groups in which she was active, starting with Bethlehem Special Olympics, which she co-founded 34 years ago in order to give children with intellectual difficulties an involvement in sports. Today, there are hundreds of youth involved and as many volunteers in the year-round program.
Among the youthful participants was her daughter, Kathy who excelled under her parents' guidance in ice skating and roller skating, winning all sorts of local and national awards.
After the funeral, at the reception in the church social hall, Bethlehem Garden Club friends provided all the table arrangements from their home gardens in a tribute to Shirley, a 20-year member who was especially dedicated to flower design. In August at the annual Flower Show at the Hotel Bethlehem, where she was co-chair with Liz and Shirley Donchez, she won second place and Liz said she was "thrilled." Club members were so devoted to Shirley they created all the flower arrangements for Kathy's wedding last year.
Maureen O'Meara of Bethlehem caused many to laugh through tears as she recalled funny incidents while working many years ago with Shirley at the local Easter Seals.
"What we remember most about Shirley is her unconditional love for her family and her unending commitment to her daughter Kathy," who Maureen called "the light of her life."
Shirley was a strong, creative and diligent attendee and volunteer at First Presbyterian Church. Thirty other members, known as the Memorial Reception Team, arranged a bountiful reception in the church social hall under the direction of Phyllis Wertman. Members remembering Shirley as a "devoted member, always willing to go the extra mile with a smile," included Nancy DeSario, Ginny Shunk, Marie Boltz and Sally Roe. A portion of the food was donated by Lehigh University, where Ralph was a professor and Shirley an active participant in the Lehigh Wives.
Maureen O'Meara recalled the Rev. Keith Brown, former church pastor, with these words: "He used to encourage us to live an abundant life so that when our judgment day arrives, we hear the words I am sure Shirley heard when she arrived – 'Well done my good and faithful servant.'"