Saying so long to a man who earned respect
Former municipal leader, minor hockey builder Ed Neil dead at 72
Judging from the comments of friends and colleagues who came to know him, Ed Neil was a diplomatic and hard-working man who cared deeply about serving others to the best of his abilities.
A well-known community volunteer and former municipal leader in the Conception Bay North area, Neil died Tuesday, Jan. 3 at the age of 72.
Ed spent more than a decade on Spaniard’s Bay council and was a pivotal player in the history of the Bay Arena Minor Hockey Association. He was only in his mid-20s when he decided to serve Spaniard’s Bay as a town councillor in 1969. Ed remained on council throughout the 1970s before leaving briefly in 1980. He returned in 1981, beginning a four-year term as mayor.
John Drover first came to know Ed through the education system — Neil spent 30 years teaching locally before retiring from Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts in 1996. Drover is a former mayor of Spaniard’s Bay who served as a councillor during Ed’s lone term as mayor.
“Ed Neil I think was one of the kindest people that I ever met,” Drover told The Compass. “One thing I always said to people about Ed Neil, and I told it to Ed himself, ‘When you made an agreement with Ed, a handshake was as good as a signed contract.’ He was that type of person.”
Wayne Smith, another former mayor of Spaniard’s Bay, was the municipality’s town manager during Ed’s days on council. They also served together on the town’s recreation committee.
“Anything to do with sports and children, Ed was involved with,” said Smith. “Ed was one of the finest people I ever met, to be honest with you. He loved Spaniard’s Bay.”
In local hockey circles, Neil was a dedicated volunteer. He was a founding member of the Bay Arena Minor Hockey Association and the CBN Minor Hockey Association. For the former group, he spent many years on its board of directors and served as chairman for the last 10 years.
He made an immediate impression on Bay Arena Minor Hockey Association president Brenda Cole when she took on her new role last year.
“Right from the get-go, he wanted to set the framework for building a good relationship between the executive and the Bay Arena management,” she told The Compass.
“The word that I always use to describe Ed is he was definitely a very diplomatic person. If there was anything you needed to discuss, he was always very approachable, and I think he always had the best interests of the minor hockey at heart.”
Along with the late Wesley Gosse, Cole considers Neil to be an instrumental figure in the development of minor hockey in Bay Roberts and the surrounding communities.
“Whenever anybody thinks about minor hockey in the Bay Roberts area, they’re going to think about both of those gentlemen, and they’re going to think very highly of them both.”
In 1986, he became the founding chairman of the Spaniard’s Bay Heritage Committee. Neil was also a former chairman of the Trinity-Conception-Placentia Health Foundation.
Beyond his career in municipal politics, Neil came extremely close to serving the public provincially. In the 2001 byelection to replace John Efford as the MHA in Port de Grave, Neil fell less than 100 votes shy of Liberal candidate Roland Butler. Neil ran for the Progressive Conservatives.
“Keep in mind, Roland of course was a very popular political person himself, so that said something for what people thought of Ed, just to have the election that close,” said Drover.
Local lawyer Douglas Moores played softball with Ed as a teenager and remained his friend for over 50 years.
“His sense of humour, genial personality and overall good nature, coupled with a large intellect, made his presence formidable,” Moores told The Compass.
Ed could offer insight on a broad range of topics, according to Moores, with conversations between the two often touching on politics, sports, the community and education.
“He was never unkind or demeaning — he was, however, no pushover or shrinking violet,” said Moores. “He could express his opinion in a very persuasive manner. He was, in essence, a true gentleman … I am proud to have been his friend.”
One thing I always said to people about Ed Neil, and I told it to Ed himself, ‘When you made an agreement with Ed, a handshake was as good as a signed contract.’ He was that type of person. John Drover
Ed Neil died last Tuesday at the age of 72.