"I adore acting," she said. "I'm an actress from beginning to end." For Neal, who died Aug. 8 at 84 from lung cancer in Edgartown, Mass., the end almost came when she was 39. In 1965 she suffered three massive strokes in a single night and lingered in a coma for three weeks. Early death would have put an end to a distinguished career for the Knoxville, Tenn., brunette with the honey-and-vinegar voice. She'd earned a Tony for Featured Actress when she was just 21 for her part in Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest and an Oscar as the worldly-wise housekeeper rejecting Paul Newman's studly attentions in Hud. But fate had other roles in mind: the grieving mother (her son was brain-damaged at 4 months when his carriage was crushed by a taxi; her daughter died of measles at 7) and the stroke victim who relearned the rudiments of her craft and dug deep to find the artist buried inside. In 1968 she was superb as the bitter wife in The Subject Was Roses--a great performance but not nearly as inspiring as Neal's own Job-like life. She did more than triumph over tragedy; she outlived it.