Charlotte, North Carolina – A walk to raise awareness on Amgotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) will be held on April 20 by the Neri family in Raleigh, North Carolina in honor of the late Dr. Emmeline Ho Neri, wife of Andy Neri.
The Neri couple have four children—Ansell. Anthea Neri Best, Abegayle Neri and Andrew Brian Neri. Anthea made the announcement after her mom was laid to rest at the columbarium in St. Raphael Catholic Church at Raleigh last Feb. 28.
The walk will also raise funds for research on a cure for ALS which remains elusive as acknowledged by Reverend Fr. Bruce Bavinger, SJ, celebrant and homilist during the occasion.
Dr. Neri died last Feb. 21, about 10 days after she was honored in a party by the Filipino American Women Association (GSS or Gabriela Silang) at Raleigh.
Tess Ferrer- Turner, a close family friend and past president of the Philippine -American Association of North Carolina (PAANC) said she was surprised to see her friend already on the dance floor during the party.
“She was so happy and she danced the cha-cha," Turner said. She said she was told later that Dr. Neri sarted to slow down after the party.
It was five years ago when the Neri family started to see changes in their matriarch's behavior. Two and a half years later, Anthea said they received word of her mother's diagnosis from Duke University that she had ALS and frontal lobe dementia.
Their initial shock was followed by denial and later acceptance. It was then that the children rallied behind their parents and Andy took care of Emmeline to her dying day.
Anthea said the family decided to travel and maximize whatever time they can spend with their mother over the next two years. The Neri couple traveled through the US, Philippines, Disney theme parks and Mexico despite the doctor's frail condition.
“ALS and dementia were chipping away at her body but not her energy,” Anthea said. She said her father would dance with her mother, laugh with her and helped her shower daily.
Andy also dyed his wife's hair, painted her nails and tried his best to do her makeup. There was never a day that went by that he didn’t tell her he loved her and that she was the smartest woman he knew.
Dr. Emneline was born Jan. 2 in Cadiz City, Philippines, the eldest of five children of a successful business owner. She studied at the Southwestern University School of Medicine and earned her medical degree.
She opened her own practice and pharmacy. While working at the hospital in Manila she met her husband Andy, a native of Tagoloan town in Misamis Oriental and part of the illustrious Neri clan.
Two of the Neri children, Ansell and Anthea, were born in the Philippines. The Neri couple decided to migrate to the US after the birth of their first two children.
They settled first in Virginia as Andy continued working in the US Navy and Emmeline stopped working and took care of their growing family. Later, she went back to work when their children were big enough.
Took to heart
The Neri couple later had another daughter named Abegayle and a son, Andrew Brian. Dr. Emmeline also kept busy with volunteer work at the Filipino American Women's Association and hosted parties at their house.
For over 20 years, she worked as a medical professional in the justice department of the Federal Bureau of Prison. During her stint there, Dr. Emmeline lobbied for better conditions for the inmates.
All four children shared lessons learned from their mother in separate eulogies duing the memorial service. Son Ansell studied at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and is the president of June -Neri Financial, Raleigh NC.
Ansell is also past president of the Philippine -American Association of North Carolina (PAANC). During the service, Ansell said their mother took to heart her faith, her family's welfare and the community.
Ansell's sister Anthea Neri-Best holds a bachelor's degree in Clinical Laboratory Science at WCU. Anthea is also an actress, singer and Human Empowerment ambassador.
Her mother's illness and death taught the Neri children some lessons on unconditional love. “They made their vow 40 years ago and that vow was tested everyday. I saw it first hand,” Anthea said.
Anthea also said she learned that time spent with family is valuable and irreplaceable. Her sister Abegayle, a B.S Administration graduate at ECU is now connected with Omnicom Media Group, a leading global media betwork in New York City.
Abegayle said she learned from her mother to never buy designer shoes at full price and that life is what you make it.
“Because of her, I learned to dare to dream big and know the value of hard work,” she said. She also said her mother always put family first and it stuck with all of them.
The youngest Andrew Neri graduated from the University of North Carolina Greensboro and is in the US Coast Guard stationed in New York. Andrew said his mother was a shield who taught him to believe in himself.
“For the past five years I was able to spend time with my mother. She was diagnosed with ALS two and a half years ago, which was about the same time I joined the army and they allowed me to go home every month to be with her.”
“I am happy I got to watch the Sound of Nusic on repeat with her. I am happy I got to dance with her during our trip to Mexico and I am happy she saved one last dance for me last week,” Andrew said in his eulogy.
When he talked about his siblings, Ansell said Andrew was awarded personally by the director of Homeland Security while sister Abegayle created ads for many Super Bowl events. Sister Anthea sang at the Carnegie Hall.
Anthea later said her mother treated everyone as her family and would take in her friends and treat them as her own.
“She had a truly giving heart and a calling to help others that will live on forever on the lives and hearts of those she had contact with,” she said.
In his homily, Fr. Bavinger confirmed that Andy and Dr. Emmeline stayed together until the end when it was time for her to go.
He said Dr. Emmeline was a “woman of faith” and a devotee of the Holy Rosary whose life the faithful can learn so much from. To her family, friends and everyone she touched during her lifetime, Dr. Emmeline will be sorely missed.