Longtime La Plata County resident LeahBelle Mitchell-Strain Neil died Saturday, March 2, 2013, at Junction Creek Rehabilitation Center. She was 88.
Mrs. Neil was born to Elmer and Fronie Mitchell on Oct. 7, 1924, on the family farm near Bayfield. Former La Plata County Clerk Leta Sauer is her double cousin, as their mothers were sisters and their fathers were brothers.
After attending the one-room Missouri Center school through sixth grade, Mrs. Neil went on to graduate from Bayfield High School in 1941. She then trained in Denver to be a beautician.
During World War II, Mrs. Neil was a clerk-typist at Lockheed Aircraft Plant in Burbank, Calif.
In 1946, she married Oscar Strain, Jr.
They moved to Fort Collins, where Mr. Strain completed his education at Colorado A&M College, now Colorado State University.
“LeahBelle received her PHT (putting husband through) by working for Mountain Bell,” her family said.
The Strains returned to Ignacio and bought the ranch where Mr. Strain was born. He died in 1977, and Mrs. Neil continued to live on the Strain Ranch.
During her years as a widow, she trained and worked with Child Evangelism Fellowship. She also was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ and Wycliff Bible Translators.
In 1986, she married Joe Neil in Ignacio, and the couple lived in the Ignacio area.
Mrs. Neil enjoyed traveling to lands of the Bible such as Israel, Greece and Egypt. She knew and supported several missionaries. She enjoyed and participated in gospel music, serving as pianist in several area churches. She was a member of First Baptist Church of Ignacio.
The Neils served with a group called Roving Volunteers in Christ’s Service (RVICS) for a short period of time. They enjoyed mountain trail rides, traveling and their church.
Mrs. Neil was preceded in death by her husband of 31 years, Oscar Strain; and son, Ty Strain.
She is survived by her husband of almost 27 years, Joe Neil of Ignacio; daughter, Rita Bridget Howard of Spirit Lake, Idaho; and several grandchildren and stepchildren.
Cremation has occurred. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, March 8, 2013, at Pine River Valley Baptist Church, 11942 Colorado Highway 172. The ashes will be placed at the Ignacio East Cemetery in a private family service.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 152, Ignacio, CO 81137.