Amesbury, MA — Rita Marie (McNeil) Schissel, the cheerful and loving matriarch of her large family, passed away surrounded by her loved ones at her home in Amesbury on September 25, 2013. Born on October 17, 1918, Rita was the oldest of John and Mary (Flaherty) McNeil’s five children, and their only daughter. She grew up in Somerville, Massachusetts, helping her hard-working, immigrant parents care for her brothers while also excelling at Saint Clement School. She was particularly proficient in math and science. Rita earned a scholarship to Regis College where she majored in biology and chemistry and graduated Salutatorian of the class of 1940. After graduation, she worked as a technician and chemist in various laboratories including the Massachusetts General Hospital and Devoe Paints.
In 1944, Rita met her future husband, Ensign Charles Schissel, who was temporarily stationed in Boston with the U.S. Navy. They married in 1946, a union which lasted 67 years. The couple moved to Amesbury in 1953 after Charles completed medical school. She remained in Amesbury the rest of her life, raising eight children with Charles.
An adventurer, Rita enjoyed her family trips, especially those to Black River, New Brunswick, where she spent many summers as a young girl on the family farm.
Rita loved singing and playing the piano. For more than 40 years, she cherished singing with her best friends in a choral group called “The Singing Belles,” which would entertain at rest homes and other community functions. The song “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” could have been written about Rita Schissel. Her beautiful smile would light up a room. She loved to laugh and was never afraid to laugh at herself. Rita was a faithful parishioner, volunteer and choir member at Holy Family Parish.
Rita is survived by her brother, Paul McNeil and his wife, Maureen; sister-in-law, Rita McNeil; daughters, Jean; Susan and her husband, William Fogerty; Betsy and her husband, Andy Mitchell; and Mary and her husband, Christopher Ryer; and sons, Dr. Lawrence and his wife, Mary Schissel; Dr. Stephen Schissel; Charles, and his wife, Mary Schissel, and James and his wife, Cheryl Schissel. She leaves 19 grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and numerous nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her beloved husband, Dr. Charles J. Schissel, who died recently on July 9th, and her brothers, John, James and Lawrence McNeil.