Our dearly beloved Alice Townroe Mennell died quietly in the afternoon on Saturday, April 19, 2014 in her beautiful green Assisted Living room at Carol Woods Retirement Community, in Chapel Hill, NC. Her son Tom and her daughter Bonnie were by her side. Many of her dearly loved extended family were able to spend time with Alice, or speak to her on the phone, in her last days for which we are all so grateful. Her face filled with joy at these times. Alice’s husband Bob predeceased her just 5 weeks earlier on March 15th. We are grateful we had them in our lives for so long and grateful they are both now at peace. A gathering to honor and celebrate Alice & Bob’s rich and long lives took place on April 29th in Chapel Hill, NC. They had been married for 69 years.
Alice was born on February 20, 1925 in New Brighton, PA and grew up in Beaver Falls, PA where she studied dance from the age of 4. She joined the Muriel Kretlow Dancers in 1942 and was soon touring and performing throughout the United States. A chance audition in 1944 led to her becoming a Radio City Music Fall Rockette…and in 1945 she married her hometown sweetheart Robert (Bob) Mennell on her dinner hour between shows. After the war, although Alice soon left her professional career as a dancer to raise a family of three, dance and music remained a joy in her life. At the age of 79 an invitation to teach a dance number for a Carol Woods productions inspired the formation of The Taptations, a tap dance group of Carol Woods residents that she was still teaching and choreographing for at the time of her passing.
Another joy in Alice’s long life was her time as a docent at the Paul Garber Facility of the Smithsonian Institution Air & Space Museum from 1977 until 1993. For many of those years, she was the only female docent among the roughly 40 at Garber. She was one of the most diligent, conscientious and knowledgeable docents at that time and conducted tours of the highest quality. Alice loved the Garber experience, the staff and her fellow docents. She drew on her many years as a career Air Force wife. She and her husband Bob, Lt. Colonel USAF (Ret), lived the nomadic Air Force life while raising their family at bases in the U.S. and abroad before settling in the Washington, DC and later NC area.
Alice cared deeply about the people she lived and worked with at the Carol Woods Retirement Community where she and her husband had lived for 15 years. She always had a smile and kind words for everyone she met each day—staff and residents. She also cared deeply about making the community an even better place for all. She had a quiet approach that got things done in a way that seemed to teach others something about how to live life. Alice’s family is deeply grateful for the support of Carol Woods and UNC Hospice that enabled Alice to stay in her cherished room, supported by and surrounded by family, until she died.
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We will miss her humor, her good cheer, her endless curiosity, her full and gentle love, and the vitality of our long conversations with her, her life-long support and championing of us in the many aspects of our lives as her children. Nothing daunted Alice in her long and adventurous life. Her spirit was strong and beautiful and she always had a sparkle in her eyes and warm hug to give.
Alice is survived by her son Tom of Monroe, NC; daughter Bonnie Mennell and her husband Paul LeVasseur of Putney, VT; her son Robert and his wife Ann of Yorktown, VA; a granddaughter Ashleigh Mennell Dering and a grandson Vincent and their families of Denver, CO; a niece Connie Mennell Baker and family of Beaver Falls, PA; a nephew Dale Mennell and his wife Laurine and family of The Villages, Florida; also the loving members of the Poe family (Carol and Tom; their children Alison, Jeffery, Amy and their families).
Her mother Bertha Marshall Townroe of Beaver Falls, her father Frederick Rathbun Townroe and her brother Frederick Townroe predeceased Alice.
Condolences for the family can be sent to Bonnie Mennell, 156 Plowden Road, Putney, VT, 05346.