LaFerne S. Keller
LaFerne S. Keller, age 97, died peacefully and went home to be with her Lord and Savior on Friday, May 26, 2023 at her daughter’s home surrounded by her loving family.
She was born in Richfield, Pennsylvania, on April 1, 1926. She was the first person in her family to graduate from college and earned her degree in Elementary Education from Bloomsburg State Teachers College in 1949.
She began her career teaching first grade in Oxford, NJ, and moved to Princeton, NJ, in 1953 after her marriage to Gene Keller Sr. She continued to teach in Hightstown, NJ, until they started their family.
Even though LaFerne retired from teaching, she continued to be actively involved with children during her lifetime. She spent many years teaching Sunday School, being a Girl Scout Leader and babysitting for her grandchildren.
LaFerne was the leader of both a Girl Scout troop and an Explorer Scout High Adventure Post from 1966-1979. Throughout the years, she remained close to a small core group of girls who affectionately called her “Mom.”
LaFerne had a strong faith and was very active in the churches that she attended. Most recently she attended The Blawenburg Reformed Church where she served as an elder for several years. One of her favorite things to do was to make homemade candy including lollipops, chocolates, and peanut brittle for the church’s annual Christmas bazaar.
She is survived by her loving children Gene H. Keller Jr. of Princeton, NJ, Patricia L. Keller (Joseph Kwiatkowski) of Holland, PA, and Jared M. Keller (Kathryn Williams) of Lambertville, NJ.
She is also survived by her sister Eunice Auker and brother Stanley (LaDonna) Shirk, all residing in Richfield, PA; her two grandchildren, Alex Kwiatkowski of Nashville, TN, and Julianne Kwiatkowski of Wayne, PA; as well as numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Gene H. Keller Sr; her son, Jonathan A. Keller; her sisters Miriam Sheaffer and Naomi Shellenberger; and her brothers Sonny, Donald, and Elvin Shirk.
Relatives and friends are invited to a Celebration of Life Ceremony at Blawenburg Reformed Church on County Highway Route 518 on Friday, June 23 at 3 p.m.
Internment will be on Saturday, June 24 at the Richfield Cemetery at 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations in LaFerne’s name can be made to The Blawenburg Reformed Church, 424 Route 518, Blawenburg, NJ 08504.
Alexander Duane “Sandy” Welch
The world lost a standout man on June 15, 2023 when Alexander Duane Welch passed away peacefully at age 78.
Born in 1944 to the late Barbara and Alexander Welch in Pensacola, Florida, where his father was based in the Navy, Alex was raised to value service and do things properly. But he rebelled when needed. He grew up in Waban, Massachusetts, where the family moved when his father completed his service and became a labor lawyer. His grandfather was the CEO of then Boston institution, department store Jordan Marsh. His grandfather a few greats back, James Duane, was a Founding Father and first post-colonial Mayor of New York City. When Alex grew up, five o’clock cocktail parties, golf events, and charity balls were de rigueur. Alex would caddy and work at Jordan Marsh during his breaks from the Mount Hermon school and around summers with cousins in Maine.
But don’t let this gentility fool you. Serious and devilish in equal measure, Alex had a wicked sense of humor and an endless capacity for practical jokes. If love can be measured by the number of times peanut butter was spread where it didn’t belong (like on telephone earpieces), his family were well-loved. He also had a penchant for small-scale arson. Over the course of his life, carpets, closets, hornet nests, and front lawns were inadvertently burned in the name of ambiance or pest control. And those are just the incidents we know about.
He received an ROTC scholarship and attended Tufts University to study history. After graduating, his service in the Marine Corps brought him to the Defense Language Institute in California (where he learned Indonesian), the USS Intrepid for exercises off the coast of Canada, the DMZ in Korea, and ultimately to Vietnam. The Marine Corps was in many ways his core, the centrifugal force for brotherhood and friendship, and the subject of many a great tale told often late into the night.
After Vietnam, he continued to chart an explorer’s course, raising a family and frequently moving around the world, living in Jakarta, Singapore and Melbourne working for companies like Gillette, L’Oreal, Alcoa, and Richardson-Vicks. When Alex and his first wife divorced, Alex became a full-time Dad with a capital “D” to a 12-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. He moved back to Melbourne for a job with a digital marketing start-up so his children could be close to extended family there. His hours were long and dinners were feast or famine. His son once ate an apple core. So it was to everyone’s delight that he met Anne Marie, a strong-willed, sensible New Yorker who shared a sense of humor and his passion for learning and curiosity about the world. He convinced her to become his wife and she put things right. They built a life together over 35 years worthy of a novel, living in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and ultimately Princeton, with many travels in between. Sailing on the Chesapeake was a particular love, and they went on expeditions as often as they could. Both competitive people, there was some vying for the captain role and control of the tiller. But Alex soon realized he was best cast as first mate.
When physical limitations curtailed Alex’s travels, he kept exploring by connecting with others and through books, often on history. The last trip he wanted to take was to the Civil War battlefield in Antietam with his son and the last book he read only weeks before he passed was Ron Chernow’s 1,104-page opus Grant. But even more than his constant curiosity, it was his generosity people valued above all. He had an acute sense of just what people needed — whether you were close family or someone he met in everyday life. Every interaction was an opportunity for connection. And this thread will continue through those who survive him: his wife, Anne Marie; brothers Bruce and Chris; two children, Deanna and Cameron, and their respective partners, Stephen and Carolyn; many cousins; and three beloved grandchildren Ava, Logan, and Owen, who knew him affectionately as Grandpa Sandy. He signed his emails and texts to them: “Love GPS” — a fitting moniker for a man famous for the world’s longest short-cuts.
Service in celebration of his life will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, June 26 at Nassau Presbyterian Church, where the family are longtime members and grateful for shared comfort in faith.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation (mcsf.org).
Arrangements are under the direction of Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, Princeton.
Joanne L. Nini
Joanne L. Nini died peacefully, on Tuesday. June 13, 2023, surrounded by family at the age of 91. At 8 years old Joanne (Giovanina) and her mother made the long journey from Pettoranello, Italy, to Princeton, New Jersey. She and her husband Anthony D. Nini owned Nini Chrysler Plymouth, a Princeton institution in its heyday. A homemaker raising five children, her daughter stricken with encephalitis and bedridden, she never wavered in her faith and turned to the Blessed Mother and Padre Pio for strength. She was often heard saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” and she certainly made the sweetest lemonade from her life’s challenges.
Joanne was known for her math mind, creativity, love of a good prank or joke, amazing pizzelles, and knack for finding out your whole life story over a cup of coffee. As a business owner of antique and collectible shops she befriended many. Joanne’s passions were flea markets and horse racing. When she and Tony built their successful racing stable and breeding farm, no one was more proud. She enjoyed time with friends at Monmouth Park. She was an avid bowler bringing home numerous trophies. Her smile shined bright in every room, but it was its brightest at her kitchen table, racing form open, coffee ready, with company coming. With the coffee brewing non-stop she welcomed all to her home. Known as Jenny to her family and childhood friends, she made friendships for life.
Joanne is predeceased by her parents Guido and Maria Teresa, her brother Antonio, her husband Anthony D. Nini, her daughter Kathleen, and her grandson Anthony. She is survived by her children Anthony Nini (Assumpta), Janice Nini Weinberg (Fred), Lynda Petrocelli (Joe), and Patricia Biscardi (Tom); sisters Antoinette Nelson (Nils) and Gloria Hutchinson (Bob); grandchildren Bradford Schreffler, Kristin Santizo (Milton), Elliott Schreffler, Ariela Weinberg-Shibre (Biniyam), Melissa Nini (John Tenuto), Andrew Nini, Nicole Petrocelli, Joseph Petrocelli, Kristina Biscardi (Joe Vare), Thomas Biscardi, and Amanda Biscardi; great-grandchildren Rocco Nini, Westin Nini, Angelo Santizo, Roman Santizo, and Aviel Shibre; many nieces, nephews, and cousins; a most dear friend, by her side throughout, Beverly DiBenedetto; and her exceptional caregivers Judi and Zena.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Paul Parish, 216 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ 08542 followed by burial in Princeton Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Princeton-Pettoranello Sister City Foundation or St. Paul Parish.
Extend condolences and share memories at TheKimbleFuneralHome.com.
Elizabeth Irene Shields
Elizabeth Irene Shields, 100, a longtime and beloved school nurse in the South Brunswick school system, died peacefully at home in Kendall Park, NJ, her two daughters by her side, on Wednesday, June 14.
Known by her middle name, Irene is the widow of Princeton native Thomas Francis Shields, a World War II U.S. Marine veteran who died in March 2000 after their 51 years of marriage.
She was born on a farm in Warwick Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania, on February 6, 1923, the fourth of 12 children of the late businessman farmer William M. Painter and onetime schoolteacher Grace Anne McCord Painter.
Her modest upbringing was typical of farming families that once formed the bedrock of America but today are so few. No shoes in the summer, washing in a basin or the creek, starting out in a one-room schoolhouse and Sundays at the country church built by her grandfather. She learned, by necessity, to sew — a skill she transmitted to her daughters — and suffered her brothers’ antics in the days when kids made their own fun. All honed a perseverance and work ethic that stood her through life.
Home life centered around the kitchen, evenings on the porch. Charity was primordial, notably during the Depression. Irene remembers her mother having “John the Bum,” a local vagrant, come eat with the family despite their many mouths. And living was frugal. Irene was enchanted the first time she saw a real magazine at an aunt’s house. At home, their only dream book was the “Sears and Roebuck” catalogue, whose pages did double duty in the outhouse.
After high school, she graduated from the Reading Hospital School of Nursing in Pennsylvania and landed her first job in 1944 at the former Princeton Hospital on Witherspoon Street, living in the nurses’ quarters nearby.
It was in Princeton where she met her future husband at a gathering of young nurses and soldiers, shortly before the men’s deployment overseas. Tom tore a dollar in two and said if I come back we’ll join the halves. He did, after heavy battle in the Pacific. The rest is history.
They married in 1948, settling downtown on Maple Street, with two daughters born in the next four years.
In 1957, the family moved to Kendall Park, a post-war development just north of Princeton that attracted many veterans thanks to the GI Bill and spawned a thriving community with
elementary schools, a newspaper, and a shopping center.
Irene helped transform their brand new barren lot, transplanting peonies, irises, lilacs, and Rose of Sharon from her parents’ farm along with the cherished rain lilies in the family for generations.
On Sundays she made the same “creamed eggs on toast” she had been served in her own childhood after church, a dish her family had dubbed “eggs à la Goldenrod” for a touch of class.
When ready to return to work, Irene developed the nursing program for Kendall Park’s three new elementary schools, remaining until 1967 when she moved on as the first nurse at the newly opened Crossroads Middle School in nearby Monmouth Junction.
She was a loyal team member much loved by staff and students, many of whom remember her until this day. Her quiet and calm demeanor held forth not only through minor student problems but many emergencies.
Irene’s huge extended family was all important. She joined them every Thanksgiving and for old-fashioned family reunions every June in Pennsylvania.
She is survived by her two daughters, Renee Shields of Grand Junction, Colorado, and Nancy Shields of Paris, France, as well as two grandsons, Matthew Marino — and his partner Charlotte Vinet — and their son Miles, and Michael Marino, all of Paris.
A devoted mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, she and her late husband were very close to their daughters despite the distance, traveling many times to Europe and the western U.S. to places they might never have seen otherwise.
She is predeceased by seven of her 12 siblings: Robert, Grace, Gross and Fred Painter, Ada Philips, Virginia Smith, and Minnie Kemp.
Her surviving sister and brothers are Narrie Herr of Maryland, Hunter Painter of Ohio, and Hervey and Jesse Painter of Pennsylvania. She also leaves behind 16 nieces and nephews and many more great-nieces and nephews.
Arrangements are under the direction of Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, 40 Vandeventer Avenue, Princeton.
Viewing will be Wednesday June 21 from 12 to 1 p.m. at the funeral home with a service immediately after. Burial will follow at St. Paul’s Cemetery, Nassau Street, Princeton.
Friends and family of the deceased who wish can access the website at matherhodge.com to extend sympathies and find details regarding the memorial.