Sheila A. McNabb, 70: Cared, advocated for children as if they were her own

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PORTLAND — Sheila A. McNabb, of Portland, died unexpectedly on April 6, her 70th birthday.

McNabb had been admitted to Mercy Hospital three days earlier for treatment of a rare bacterial infection in her lungs, but failed to recover. Her death came as she was celebrating five years of being free from stage III breast cancer.

McNabb grew up in Portland and graduated from the former Cathedral High School. She then worked in the offices of the former New England Telephone Co. for five years. Marriage ultimately steered her to her roles as wife, mother and caregiver, roles she always cherished.

She devoted much of her life to children, first her own three sons and later her six grandchildren. She also helped care for a special niece, Elizabeth Houle, developing a bond that remained for the rest of her life.

More recently, McNabb volunteered in the second-grade classroom of her granddaughter, Samantha, whom she also helped raise. She a grandmother figure to the children at Longfellow School, who, like her own grandkids, called her Popo. 

In 1980, McNabb’s determination to do the best for children assumed crusade-like proportions in Saco. There, she and her husband were raising their young family, and Sheila led a drive to repeal a property tax cap that had devastated local schools. Voters approved the repeal in a referendum.

The family later moved to Portland. With her children grown, McNabb returned to work outside her home, serving as a customer service representative for L.L. Bean Inc. She enjoyed solving problems for customers, and made many new friends among coworkers. 

Her interests also included crafts, jewelry design, live theater, television news and spending time with friends and family.

In addition to her parents, Edward F. and Kathleen A. Smith, McNabb was predeceased by a sister, Kathleen Schidzig, and a brother, Edward F. Smith Jr.

She is survived by her husband of nearly 48 years, David; son, Dennis and wife Yung, of Alameda, California, and their children Yishan, Mulan and Kaiqi; son, Brian and wife Shireen, of Huntington, Vermont, and their children Nate and Zoey; and son, Matthew, of Falmouth, and his daughter Samantha. She is also survived by two brothers, Christopher C. Smith and wife Kathy, of Ireland and Florida, and Paul E. Smith and wife Candace, of Freeport.

A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated April 10 at St. Joseph Church, in Portland. Burial followed at Evergreen Cemetery.

Those who wish may make memorial contributions to The Center for Grieving Children, 555 Forest Ave., Portland, ME 04101.

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