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Elizabeth A. McDermott, opposed death penalty; June 2, 1937 -- Aug. 10, 2011

Elizabeth A. "Liz" McDermott, who became an advocate against the death penalty after her neighbor, Timothy J. McVeigh, committed one of the worst acts of terrorism in U.S. history, died Wednesday in Kenmore Mercy Hospital.

The former Elizabeth A. Belzer, a Catholic nun who left her religious vocation to raise a family, was 74.

While upset about the April 19, 1995, terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people and injured more than 500, Mrs. McDermott remained a faithful friend to McVeigh and sought to portray the good points of his early life.

In the days between McVeigh's conviction and execution, an event occurred at her Pendleton home that she considered an omen. She and her daughter, Mary E. "Mollie," had noticed a peach tree in their backyard, full of fruit after years of dormancy. McVeigh had planted that tree as a boy.

Mother and daughter considered it a sign of hope. However, two yars later, a shaft of lightning ripped through the tree, and although Mrs. McDermott was distraught, the tree survived a brutal winter and come spring of 2000, it was filled with buds.

A year later, on June 11, 2001, McVeigh was executed.

Mrs. McDermott never lost hope and spoke out against the death penalty whenever asked to comment.

Robert Nigh, McVeigh's attorney, had talked about Mrs. McDermott to the national media as a friend of McVeigh. And at one point, she organized a meeting between Bill McVeigh, Timothy's father, and Bud Welch, who lost a daughter in the Murrah building attack. The purpose of the meeting was to promote healing.

Survivors in addition to her daughter include her husband, John G.; a son, Paul J.; two brothers, the Rev. Paul J. Belzer and James F. Belzer; and a sister, Lenore M. Belzer.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11:30 a.m. Monday in St. Amelia Catholic Church, 2999 Eggert Road, Town of Tonawanda. Prayers will be at 10:45 in Amigone Funeral Home, 2600 Sheridan Drive, Town of Tonawanda.

-- Lou Michel