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Town Official's Wife Dies During Sandy

Grace Keimel died Wednesday at her Lake Hiawatha home just days after her 66th birthday.

A Parsippany woman died at her Lake Hiawatha home Wednesday during the immediate aftermath of superstorm Sandy when it is believed that her breathing apparatus ran out of power, according to her daughter.

Grace Keimel, 66, died alone at her house on Lake Shore Drive while on a portable oxygen machine. Her husband, Parsippany Hazardous Materials Coordinator R. Lee Keimel, was performing Sandy-related emergency duties at the time.

While the official cause of Keimel's death was not specified, her daughter Dawn Barhite told Patch, "I believe it was because of Sandy."

Keimel, 66, had suffered from pulmonary issues for some time, said Barhite. She used a portable oxygen machine to assist with breathing during the day and a larger, stationary respirator overnight.

Barhite said that her mother was encouraged to use one of the town-provided generators offered to people with medical needs. Keimel refused the offer, her daughter said.

"She said that [with the portable tank], she had something other people didn't have," said Barhite. "She wanted the generator to go to someone who needed it more than her. 

"That was her, always putting others before herself."

Neighbor Sharif Shamsudin agreed that Grace Keimel was a selfless individual.

"She was so generous, always wanting to help other people," Shamsudin said. "Both her and [her husband] Lee. Really good people; she's going to be missed."

Grace and Lee Keimel were married 48 years. They settled in Parsippany in 1971. Together, they had four children and seven grandchildren.

Grace Keimel was a Connecticut native and lived there until she came to Lake Hiawatha.

She spent her career in service, working as a home health nurse for Morristown's Visiting Nurse Association until she retired.

In recent years, her health had declined. Keimel was a member of the Huff-and-Puffers Pulmonary Rehab Center in Ironia.

She died three days after celebrating her 66th birthday.

Barhite, a member of Parsippany's Citizens Emergency Resource Team who volunteered at the township's emergency shelter during Sandy, said she wondered if she should have checked on her mother more often.

Neighbors dismised that notion, telling Patch that they saw Barhite popping in and out of the family home regularly to see to her mother's well-being.

"The storm came for a reason," said Shamsudin, waxing philosophical. "She was a good woman, and her family was there for her. This was just her time."

Melissa Younger November 06, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Thank you for your kind remarks. - Lee and the Keimel family
Melissa Younger November 06, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Dear Natalie, Thank you for writing such a beautiful article about my mom. I know my dad and the rest of my family were very appreciative that you took the time to do this for my mom. Again thank you, Melissa (Keimel) Younger
Natalie Davis November 06, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Melissa, your dad and your family mean much to Parsippany and to me. You all are in my prayers. Let me know if there is anything we can do.
Debby Hamidian November 11, 2012 at 04:05 AM
I just read this. I accidently came across it looking for portable concentrators. The last time i was in a hurricane; my lights were out for a week. Now that I am dependent on oxygen 24/7; I have been concerned about what happens. I have been not wanting to spend the money on a generator but this has convinced me. The beautiful description of your Mom made me cry. I am going to show it to my friend. She's been upset I don't want to spend the money because I want to leave the money to my son. She will also be moved by your remarks. I pray for you to find comfort and peace during your time of sorrow. Thank you for Sharing.
Carol Van Sickle November 23, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Melissa and to you and your family members, I am so sorry to learn of your mother's passing. Being so far away it is hard to put faces on the New Jersey people, but your and your family have always been on my mind as you and I were close friends when we worked together here in Michigan. May you and yours find comfort and God be with you in the days to come.

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