Say­ing so long to a man who earned respect

For­mer mu­nic­i­pal leader, mi­nor hockey builder Ed Neil dead at 72

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

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

TC ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Ed Neil died last Tues­day at the age of 72.

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