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Shirley Schievella, pro bono lawyer, dies

Shirley Schievella, a lawyer with a solo practice in Port Jefferson, was known for her generosity. Much of her time was devoted to pro bono work.

"There was no one who was a client of hers that didn't love her, she gave up her time freely," said her husband, Pasqual Schievella of Port Jefferson.

Shirley Schievella died on Jan. 14 after a long illness, at the age of 83. "She really connected with people, and the word 'warmth' comes up when she is talked about. She was so caring, so loving, and an example to be followed," said her daughter, Andrea Schievella, also of Port Jefferson.

Schievella, who was born in Great Neck, married a Merchant Marine at a young age, and they had two children. At 20, she left her first husband to raise the children on her own, taking any job she could to support her family, her daughter said. Education was important to Schievella, but college was put on hold while she took on the responsibility of being a single mom, her daughter said.

In 1966, she married Pasqual Schievella, who was one of her children's grade school teachers in Port Jefferson. He pushed his wife to get a law degree, her daughter said.

It took her 10 years, starting with an associate degree at Suffolk County Community College in 1974. She earned her bachelor's from Stony Brook University in 1978, and received a law degree from Hofstra University in 1981, when she was 53.

Schievella then became the secretary for Kenneth Anderson, head of the Stony Brook NAACP chapter. She was always interested in civil rights, her family said, and she also started her private practice.

In December 1998, Schievella was named the Pro Bono Attorney of the Month by the Suffolk County Bar Association for devoting nearly 200 hours free to clients. She focused on civil matters, including wills, matrimonial disputes and property and child custody issues, her daughter said.

"Money was certainly not her first priority. If anyone couldn't pay, she didn't care as long as she could help people," her daughter said.

Pasqual added, "Shirley would often get very emotionally attached to her clients, caring so much for them that sometimes being a lawyer was difficult for her."

Besides her husband and daughter, Schievella is survived by another daughter, Susan Evans of Bluffton, S.C., and a son, Dan Evans of Melbourne, Australia; three granddaughters and seven great-grandchildren. Through her second marriage, she is survived by three stepchildren, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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