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Lucille Neal, 81, recipient of a papal award for service to her parish, community and the Buffalo Catholic Diocese, died Saturday (Sept. 11, 1999) in Buffalo General Hospital, where she was a surgical patient.

The first African-American to serve as president of the Buffalo Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, she was active in church and community organizations on the local and national level. She headed the Council of Catholic Women from 1989 through 1991.

A restaurant cook and manager, Mrs. Neal retired in 1984 after working for more than 25 years at the former AM&A's department store in downtown Buffalo. She was lead cook in the store's Yankee Doodle Room for about 20 years and then was promoted to manager of the Garden Patio restaurant.

Mrs. Neal was honored in 1994 with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award for her work in St. Ann's Parish, Buffalo, her contributions to the Diocese of Buffalo and to the Ellicott District community. It was presented by retired Bishop Edward D. Head on behalf of Pope John Paul II.

In 1998, she related her experiences as an African-American growing up in a white Catholic Church in an award-winning video. The program, "A Testimony of Faith: History of African-American Catholics in the Diocese of Buffalo," was produced by Daybreak Television Productions, the television arm of the diocesan Department of Communications.

As a youngster, she was a member of the former St. Mary's Catholic Church at Broadway and Pine Street. Later, she joined St. Ann's Parish, Broadway and Emslie Street, where she was active until her death.

Mrs. Neal was founder of the Holy Family Group at St. Ann's, a member of the Diocesan Implementation Team of the National Black Catholic Congress and a member of St. Ann's Holy Family Society and the board of directors of the St. Ann's Center.

She also was a member of the Citizens Community Development Corp., the advisory board of directors of the Jessie Nash Health Center, the Ellicott Neighborhood Advisory Council, the William-Emslie YMCA Senior Citizens and past president of the Ellicott Federation of Block Clubs.

Born in Atlanta, Mrs. Neal came to Buffalo with her family as an infant. She attended Buffalo schools.

Her husband of 43 years, Ralph C. Neal, died in 1982.

She is survived by two daughters, Eleanor Echols and Kathleen N. Williams, both of New Haven, Conn.; four sons, Carl S. of Atlanta, Paul R. of Pasadena, Calif., and Lawrence M. and Michael K.; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday in St. Ann's Catholic Church, Broadway and Emslie Street. Burial will be in Forest Lawn.


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