Neola was born at home in the Santa Ana Canyon on April 13, 1927 to Ben and Ada Lemke and was baptized at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Olive, California (now part of the City of Orange). An adventurous girl who loved the outdoors, Neola had her first airplane ride in a tiny plane at the Eddy Martin Field (near what is now John Wayne Airport) with her dad and her brother when she was just four years old. Neola had her own horses from age six until high school. One of her treasures was a BB gun she purchased with her own wages earned delivering milk every day via bicycle to her grandmother.
Neola attended St. Paul's Lutheran School as a child; she enjoyed her four years at Orange High and made lifelong friends there, playing field hockey, basketball, volleyball, and softball all four years. She loved being one of the yell leaders for two years and was the FIRST female yell leader at Orange High, leading the crowd at football games in rousing cheers of "O-O-O-R-A, N-N-N-G-E, O-R-A, N-G-E, GOOO ORANGE!"
Neola spent her summers packing oranges at the Olive Heights Packing House to earn extra money; she also often helped her dad by driving the tractor in his Sunkist orange groves during the World War II days because help was scarce.
Neola continued to participate in sports and leadership activities while attending Fullerton College and treasured the friends she met. In fact, Neola gathered for frequent luncheons with both her high school and college groups of friends well into her nineties! Neola met her beloved husband, Al, on the beach at Corona del Mar in July 1946, just after his discharge from the Navy. They married in May 1948 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Orange and raised their three children in Fullerton: Bill, John, and Sharon.
The family enjoyed many water-skiing and fishing vacations. When their children married and started their own families, Neola and Al made many trips to visit them while driving their 5th-wheel trailer. Neola and Al fished, danced, and played tennis through life and their travels around the world. They especially loved to swim and boogie board at Newport Beach and on Maui's beaches.
Music was an important part of Neola's life from childhood on; she played the piano and sang in school and church choirs. Neola was the accompanist for the church choir, in which Al sang bass. Her career serving the Lord as a church organist started on June 12, 1955, ultimately spanning more than 63 years! She also volunteered with the Lutheran Women's Missionary League on the local, zone, district, and international level and was always busy organizing some function Neola truly loved working with people.
Among her many roles, Neola was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother (!), who kept in close touch with her family members, including her much-loved nieces and nephews, as well as her many friends. She never hesitated to express her love and faith in the Lord and her gratitude for His blessings throughout her life.
One of Neola's favorite mottos was, "I'm going to heaven, having a great time doing it, and want to take as many with me as possible!" Now, she is with her beloved Al, singing praises with the saints in her heavenly home. Neola wants to be remembered as a dedicated servant of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Neola is preceded in death by her brother Harland, sister Dolores, husband Al, and son John.
A memorial service celebrating Neola's life will be held at Zion Lutheran Church at 222 N. East Street in Anaheim, CA on Friday, October 20, 2023 at 10:30 a.m. The family asks that you wear your favorite Hawaiian outfit, as Neola and Al loved their trips to Maui.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Neola's honor to Zion Lutheran Church and School at https://zionanaheim.org/donate or to the Salvation Army at https://salarmy.us/HawaiiWildfires2023 to support the 2023 Maui wildfires relief effort.
Published by Orange County Register from Oct. 7 to Oct. 14, 2023