Thursday, January 26, 2012

Windell Neal, 1925-2012

Today I was planning to write about pop culture and some life lessons that come from them. I was going to choose between last Friday's episode of Fringe and the movie Extrmemly Loud and Incredibly Close. Both had amazing moments that moved me to share. But today something more important is on the agenda. For my first boss at Alfa, my professional mentor, my friend has gone on to his eternal reward. Windell Neal is no longer with us. I am sad for that...and thankful for his life.

A little less than twenty-four years ago I was at a crossroads. I knew God was calling me away from my three years teaching middle school math, but I didn't have any idea what was next. In a long story that I will tell in another blog post one day (if I haven't already - I need to check back), God led me to Mr. Neal at the perfect time. The perfect time for me, and the perfect time for the company. My career as an actuary began.

He gave me my first chance. He supported me as I learned what the heck I was doing. He made sure I got visibility with people here so that management would know my capabilities. And at lunch day after day after day, he gave me advice, and taught me everything he could think of about how to succeed at my career. Because of him, I began a journey that I am convinced put me right where God wanted me, in so many ways. I can't even begin to express how thankful I am.

Tomorrow we will gather at his church to say goodbye. I am honored that his widow Catherine asked me to say a few words. I feel so inadequate, but I know God will help me express how much he has meant to me all these years.

You know, we try to sum up a person's life in a short paragraph in the newspaper. Here is the one for Mr. Neal:
NEAL, Lt Col Windell W., US Air Force (Ret) died on 24 January 2012 after an extended illness. He was 86 years of age. Lt Col Neal entered the Armed Forces during World War II and also served in Vietnam. He served for 27 years at various assignments in the United States and in other stations overseas. While on active duty, he attended the Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Subsequent to his retirement, he elected to reside in Prattville, Alabama. He is survived by his loving wife, Catherine, of 31 years. He has 5 children by a previous marriage, Stephen Neal, Atlanta, Georgia, Sheila Neal, Houston, Texas, Joyce Spivey, Montgomery, Alabama, Gail Hayes (Bill) Georgia, Carolyn Dasinger (Jim), Montgomery, Alabama, Surviving grandchildren, Bill Hayes (Washington,DC, Benjamin Dasinger (Montgomery), Ashley and Elizabeth Dasinger, also of Montgomery. Windell is also survived by 2 stepdaughters, Cherie (Clifton) and Jennifer (Jim), both of Prattville. Also surviving is step granddaughter, Stefani Wiley (Jamie), Prattville, Alabama. Windell has been an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Prattville for many years. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his memory to the Church. A memorial service will be held, Friday, January 27, 2012 at 10:00 AM, First Methodist Church, Prattville.
No, obituaries don't do a man justice. My life is totally different because of this one. Thank you, Mr.Neal. I'll miss you.

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