by Len Lear

Dale Lyn Kinley was just as familiar a staple at Weavers Way Mt. Airy as the fresh produce. An employee at the co-op for 39 of its 47 years of its existence, Dale always had a big smile on her face and literally treated every customer and fellow employee like a guest in her house. The 68-year-old long-time resident of West Mt. Airy, who had fought through more than her share of hardship, including kidney dialysis and two double kidney transplants, died suddenly Thursday, May 7. (Weavers Way’s three area stores have more than 10,000 member-households.)

“We are greatly saddened by the sudden and tragic loss of Dale Kinley, longtime meat and seafood manager at Weavers Way Mt. Airy,” said Norman Weiss, Weavers Way purchasing manager. “She had great relationships with shoppers, and the vendors liked her, too. She basically got along with everybody she interacted with. She was kind, helpful, always smiling.”

According to a spokesperson for the Lownes Family Funeral Home in Lafayette Hill, “Dale looked to celebrate her 69th birthday on May 10 and planned to retire from her beloved job in early 2021. She was practicing yoga in her living room when she was struck with a fatal heart attack. She had no history of heart problems and tested negative for the Covid-19 virus.”

Bonnie Shuman, Weavers Way executive chef, told us last week, “Dale and I got to know each other well in that little room in the small basement in our Mt. Airy store where Dale managed the meat and seafood department … I leaned on Dale when I needed support, and she was always there to listen, never judging. We saw each other through a lot of ups and downs. She attended my wedding and I hers, where I was delighted to not only be a guest but to have catered the food…

“For me Dale embodied all the good that the co-op represents, and I have not been able to return to that little room in the basement since she has passed. I cannot yet bring myself to go there because her absence from that place where we shared so much is just too hard to bear.”

Apollo Heidelmark, former meat cutter at the Mt. Airy store and now the meat department manager there, recalled, “After standing next to Dale for the better part of 10 years, I can positively say that her favorite part of the day was working with our working members and cooperators, most who have worked with her on three two-hour shifts every year religiously. They were not just members but friends…

“Dale loved her job and was considered the mom of the room, sharing a space with our prep foods department. She is missed every day by staff and members alike. I am sure I could go on and on about Dale and the positive impact she had has on myself and everyone I know who came in contact with her.”

Daughter of the late Betty Propert and David Kinley Jr., Dale grew up in the Shawmont section of Roxborough and received her primary and secondary education at the Springside and Stevens Schools, both all-girls, in Chestnut Hill.

Dale suffered double kidney failure in 1984. During her initial journey through the life-and-death trauma of kidney failure, a local film-maker documented Dale’s struggle in a film that aired on public television. Despite being dependent on three weekly dialysis treatments for several years, Dale never allowed the blood-cleansing ordeals to dampen her love of life. She visited Maine, California, Assateague Island and the Jersey Shore, lugging heavy plastic sacks of transfusions to pursue a full life.

As she approached the first kidney transplant in 1986 —  long before “GoFundMe” campaigns — the Weavers Way staff and members raised more than $10,000 to support medical expenses related to her operation and recovery. Dale suffered a second kidney failure in 2006, and in 2009, after more struggle with stressful dialysis, she received a second successful double transplant at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. She returned to work at Weavers Way just as soon as doctors permitted it. Dale remained dependent on strong anti-rejection medicines — with harsh side effects — for the rest of her life.

Dale is survived by husband Len Byron, brother David H. Kinley III and mother-in-law Catherine R. Byron. A celebration of her life will take place when it can be safely arranged. Memorial donations may be made to The National Kidney Patient Assoc., 804 Second Street Pike, Southampton, PA 18966.

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