Mary Neil Hardman Whitmire Chandley, 1931-2019
Last updated 6/19/2019 at 7:11pm
Mary Neil Hardman Whitmire Chandley, 88, passed peacefully in her sleep on June 9, 2019 at 4 a.m. She was a lifelong resident of Lake Wales, born on January 5, 1931 to Cleo and Neil Hardman, both pioneer residents of Lake Wales. Throughout her life, Mary Neil was always very active in school, church, community service, youth organizations, music and other local projects.
She graduated with honors from Lake Wales High School in 1948 and attended Piedmont College in Demorest, GA on a piano scholarship. Mary Neil graduated Cum Laude in 1951 from University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Education. She was also listed in Who's Who of American Colleges and Universities.
In 1953, Mary Neil married Quinton J. Whitmire, whom she had met at Piedmont College, at First United Methodist Church, Lake Wales. Their first home was in Venezuela, where Mr. Whitmire established his own oilfield construction company on Lake Maracaibo. Mary Neil opened a small private school for English-speaking children. She also gave piano lessons and was the accompanist for the American church they attended. Mary Neil returned to Lake Wales for the birth of their first two children.
In 1958, they moved back to Lake Wales. Mr. Whitmire founded Whitmire and Mock, a pipeline construction company, and then Whitmire-Allen, a commercial construction company specializing in buildings such as hospitals, churches, schools (including the Lake Wales High School), condominiums, resorts, and shopping centers. The company was one of the first contractors for Walt Disney World and built the interior of the Contemporary Hotel, the Disney World Golf Course and Country Club, all camping facilities, and the original Lake Buena Vista Village and Shopping Center (now Disney Springs).
In 1956, the First United Methodist Church of Lake Wales identified a need for a kindergarten and preschool. Mary Neil was on the founding committee as well as being the director and teacher of the 3-Year-old Class which was established during her return in 1958. The school is still quite active since it very beginning.
Mary Neil continued teaching part-time and substituting in Lake Wales schools. In the summer of 1968, Mary Neil, with the support of Quinton, studied at the University of the Americas near Mexico City. She took her four children to Mexico with her and they lived in the heart of Mexico City. During their time in Mexico City, the Summer Olympics were held and a 7.1 magnitude earthquake (centered in Oaxaca) occurred.
Mary Neil attended graduate school at the University of South Florida and commuted to Tampa from Lake Wales for several years. One summer, she lived in the USF dorms with all five of her children. In 1971, she earned her Master's in Education with a Reading Specialization.
Mary Neil taught in English departments at Lake Wales High School, Polk Avenue Elementary, and night school where she taught English for Speakers of Other Languages. She also started her own business, Educational Services, through which she counseled and tutored students from kindergarten through junior college. She also took many post- graduate courses at Florida Atlantic and Nova Universities.
While her five children were in schools in Lake Wales, Mary Neil was very active in P.T.A., often being Home Room Mother to several classrooms at the same time. She served in many Lake Wales community groups: LWHS Advisory Council to the Polk County School Board; Polk Association for Gifted Education; LWHS Band Association; Little League; President of the LWHS Choral Association; Cub Scouts (Den Mother); Brownies and Girl Scouts (Troop Leader and taking her youngest daughter's senior troop through five European countries); Black Hills Passion Play – Lake Wales; Lake Wales Ballet; Chairman of the Education Committee of the Board of Directors of the AAUW; started and taught the Great Books program in all Lake Wales schools, grades 2-12; Director and Advisor for National Junior Music Club; Board Member of the Lake Wales Women's Club; member of the Senior Music Club; Charter Member of the Arts Council; Lake Wales Care Center; Bok Tower Gardens; YMCA; Chamber of Commerce; National Historical Society; Lake Wales Depot Museum; Pioneer Day; Lake Wales Hospital Guild; Daughters of the American Revolution; Lake Wales Country Club; Lake Wales Little Theater; Lake Wales Chorale since it's inception; Circle of Friends; and founder and tutor of the Literacy Council, where she and other volunteers were honored by a visit from First Lady Barbara Bush.
Mrs. Chandley was a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church of Lake Wales where she was active in activities such as: teaching Sunday school; vacation bible schools; choir; music programs; Esther Schaaf Sunday School Class; and Belle Johnson United Methodist Women. Her loves were her husbands and children, family, friends, church, world travel, reading, music, nature, teaching, learning, helping others and volunteering.
Mary Neil's first husband Quinton died in 1978 and she was widowed for 20 years. In 1998, Mary Neil became reacquainted with Dick Chandley at their 50th Lake Wales High School Reunion. These childhood friends and classmates immediately fell in love prompting both sets of children to nickname them "The Lovebirds." Mary Neil and Dick married on February 14, 1999. Dick was VP of Hitchner Manufacturing Co., a metallurgic and casting company, based in Milford, NH. He also served as CEO of Metal Casting Technologies, the research and development branch of Hitchner. Mary Neil moved to Dick's home in Amherst, NH, for a short period, after which they moved back to Lake Wales while Dick commuted to New Hampshire for work until his retirement. Mary Neil and Dick enjoyed travel including Hawaii, Alaska, Italy, China (2006), and for their 5th Wedding Anniversary in 2004, an Around-the-World National Geographic Expedition Trip by specialized private jet to many countries and heritage locations including Easter Island, Machu Picchu, America Samoa, Australia, New Guinea, Cambodia, Mt. Everest (a fly over by plane), Bhutan, India and the Taj Mahal, Tanzania and the Rift Valley, England and Washington, DC. Mary Neil and Dick enjoyed spending their later years in the house designed and built by Mary Neil's first husband Quinton and Dick made several significant improvements to the house and property including installing solar power and renewing the landscaping.
Mrs. Chandley was predeceased by her first husband, Quinton J. Whitmire, Sr., her brother, Dr. William M. Hardman, MD (Mimi), and stepson, Walter Dixon Chandley. She is survived by her present husband George Dixon "Dick" Chandley; son Quinton Jay Whitmire, Jr. (Sandy), Lake Wales, FL; daughters: Mary Valerie Whitmire Davis (Gary), Orlando, FL; Karen Elizabeth Whitmire Savage (John), Riverview, FL; Anne Michelle Whitmire, Temple Terrace, FL; and Laura Neil Whitmire Owen (Ron), Winter Haven, FL; step-daughters: Cindy Chandley, Lake Wales, FL; Beverly Chandley, Ft. Myers, FL; Dorothy Chandley Kallam (Jerry), Palmer, AK; Deborah Chandley Umphries (Luke), Lehigh Acres, FL; eleven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, seven step-grandchildren and four step-great-grandchildren; sister Sybil Hardman Catala (Bert), Temple Terrace, FL; many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
A Memorial Service will be held at the First United Methodist Church in Lake Wales on June 21, 2019, at 4 p.m.with special music starting at 3:30 p.m. A reception for friends and family will be held in the Fellowship Hall immediately following the service. A burial of the cremains for immediate family will be at the Lake Wales Cemetery on June 22. Funeral arrangements are being managed by Marion Nelson Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the First United Methodist Church of Lake Wales, Florida United Methodist Children's Home, or one of the many Lake Wales community organizations Mary Neil supported.