Marsha (Neff) Sykes
Born Marsha Maxine Neff on December 9, 1942, in Ocala, Florida, to Edward Rudolf Neff, Jr., of Marathon, Florida, and Ruth Maxine Smith of Ocala, Florida, Marsha grew up in an Air Force family. Her father had been a B-17 pilot flying combat missions in Europe and North Africa and served in a variety of positions in the US Air Force until his retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1960. Marsha and her two siblings, Mary Ann and Edward Rudolf, III, moved many times while growing up, including Orlando and Fort Walton Beach, Florida; Tokyo, Japan; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Alamogordo, New Mexico; and Dayton, Ohio; before settling down in Satellite Beach, Florida. This transient life made Marsha a resilient and independent woman able to deal with different challenges and environments.
She graduated from the University of Florida in 1962 with a degree in education, and she spent almost 30 years as a public school teacher in grades four through seven and as a special education specialist in schools from Ocala, Tallahassee, and Orlando. She was named a finalist as Teacher of the Year for Orange County Schools for her innovative and creative lesson plans. She retired in 2005 but maintained an avid interest in science and nature for most of the rest of her life.
Marsha was a caring mother who lovingly raised her three sons as a single parent, giving them a strong sense of responsibility and independence. Her sons James, David, and Steven all are productive adults. Marsha set an example for her sons and the rest of the family when she took a leave of absence to care for her aged mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. She made frequent trips of sixty miles each way from Orlando to Satellite Beach, often staying with her mom for days at a time. After Maxine passed away, Marsha looked after her husband’s mother in her final years. Before her own Alzheimer’s eventually limited her activities, Marsha loved to travel with family and friends and toured Great Britain, Alaska, the Virgin Islands, and many of the states where her sons and other family members lived.
In sum, Marsha Maxine Neff Sykes led an exemplary life of service to others, maintaining a strong sense of self and showing love and concern for others. Dying from complications from Alzheimer’s on Saturday, July 24, 2021, her time on earth was too short, but the impact she left on the lives of others will remain alive for many generations to come.
A Celebration of Marsha's Life will be held on Monday, August 2 at Newcomer Cremations, Funerals & Receptions, East Orlando Chapel. The family will receive friends from 10:30 AM to12 Noon and a service will be at 12 Noon. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in memory of Marsha to the Alzheimer's Association, Florida Chapter.