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Amherst woman struck and killed after Mass 'took great joy' in teaching

Helen S. Liebler retired from Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart several years ago, but enjoyed teaching math at the all-girls high school so much that she frequently returned as a substitute teacher.

“It was part of her life,” said Monsignor Robert E. Zapfel, pastor of St. Leo the Great in Amherst, where Liebler attended Mass almost daily. “She took great joy in that.”

In fact, she had returned to Sacred Heart this week for a full week of substitute teaching, he said.

But after leaving Mass on Wednesday morning at St. Benedict church near the school, Liebler was struck by a vehicle while crossing Eggert Road, just north of Main Street, Amherst police said.

She was rushed to Erie County Medical Center where she died a short time later. She was 75.

Known to friends and family as “Sandy,” Liebler was remembered by the pastor late Wednesday as “one of those people who you would be hard to picture without a smile on her face. A very happy, optimistic, hopeful person.”

Zapfel and Liebler knew each other since they were neighbors when he was a teenager growing up on Kings Highway in Snyder.

“Her circle of friends was very, very broad,” he said. “She was just a kind person, a woman of strong faith.”

She volunteered at the St. Vincent De Paul Society soup kitchen in Buffalo. At St. Leo, she was involved with the spiritual renewal program called ChristLife, coordinated Eucharistic ministers, brought Communion to the sick and homebound and helped decorate the church.

In addition to her church duties, she tutored students in math in her Amherst home.

“She was really, in a way, a quiet unassuming presence but always one with a smile, kindness and gentleness,” said Zapfel. “But she was very organized. You could count on her for anything to follow through.”

When the time came to hire a director of pre-kindergarten at St. Leo, she was asked to help interview candidates because of her long teaching background.

Liebler was hit in the northbound driving lane at about 7:23 a.m. by a 2007 Chrysler driven by Arlene A. Adams, 36, of Buffalo, police said.

The investigation is continuing. Police have not said whether charges will be filed.

Anyone who may have witnessed what happened is asked to call Amherst police at (716) 689-1311.

Liebler’s husband, Robert, died about 5 years ago, and she is survived by two sons, Robert and Thomas, and nine grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at St. Leo, 885 Sweet Home Road, Amherst. The tragedy left family and friends struggling to comprehend the death of someone so beloved in the church community, Zapfel said.

“This is the time we rely on our faith -- our faith in Jesus who promised eternal life to the good and faithful,” he said. “We cling to that even stronger now. And we’re supported by our very happy memories, too.”

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