Francis Harrison "Harry" McNeal, age 90, retired Research Agronomist, ARS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Adjunct Professor, Plant & Soil Science Department, Montana State University, died Sept. 15, 2011, at Spring Meadows Assisted Living Community in Bozeman. Harry lived a productive life centered on family, friends, church and the natural resources of the world around him.
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He was born to Francis and Tillie (Zell) McNeal on Dec. 9, 1920, on a wheat farm at Bartlett, Ore. Depression years were tough, but Harry was able to earn his room and board on a dairy farm in Wallowa, Ore., a town with the nearest high school, where he graduated from high school in 1939.
He enrolled at Oregon State College (now Oregon State University) that fall as a freshman in the Farm Crops Department. He received the Bachelor of Science degree in June 1943, while a corporal in the U.S. Army, having been inducted in March of that year.
After training, he was shipped out of San Francisco for Burma, via Bombay, India. While in Burma, he served as a Liaison Officer with the Chinese 50th Division; he traveled with this unit into southern China after Japan surrendered and then returned to the U.S. in December 1945. He was honorably discharged from the Army in May 1946 with the rank of captain.
In the fall of 1946, he returned to Oregon State College to work on his M.S. degree in farm crops, where the next few months proved to be the most momentous of his life, after Harry met and fell in love with Ora Veenker, a freshman at Oregon State.
They met on a blind date and after a fast-moving relationship were married on Feb. 28, 1947. Their 62 ½-year union was blessed with many memorable experiences.
Harry was employed by ARS in 1947 and was transferred with ARS to Montana State College in the fall of 1948, spending the remainder of his professional career in Bozeman, working with Montana's spring wheat improvement program. He and Ora fell in love with Bozeman and the people they met here, adding to its population with the birth of their children, Linda and Allen.
During his career, Dr. McNeal received the Ph.D. degree in Plant Genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1953. In 1956, he was appointed Coordinator of ARS wheat research programs in the western U.S. and traveled extensively throughout the western U.S., in addition to his assignment with Montana's research program.
Dr. McNeal was also a member of Sigma Xi, Alpha Zeta, Scabbard & Blade, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Western Crop Science Society. He was elected as a Fellow of both the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America.
Following his retirement, he was recognized for his contributions by the Western Wheat Workers Committee, the Montana Fish and Game Commission and by an honorary membership in the Montana Seed Growers Association.
A new variety of spring wheat was named "McNeal" and released in the late 1990s in recognition of Harry's significant contributions to research and development of hard red spring wheats in the U.S. "McNeal" went on to become the highest production spring wheat in Montana for a number of years.
Harry was always interested in wildlife and other natural resources and spent much of his retirement time working with conservation groups. Fishing, hunting and trapping occupied some of his most enjoyable days spent with family and friends.
He served on the Board of Directors and as president of local sportsmen's groups, and he also served three years as State President of the Montana Wildlife Federation. In 1986, he received one of his most appreciated awards when he was recognized by the Montana Wildlife Federation as Montana's Conservationist of the year.
Ora and Harry joined the First Presbyterian Church in 1950, which became a significant part of their lives as they both became very active in church life.
Harry and Ora were able to travel around most of this country and to many other parts of the world, either for his profession or for vacation periods. They visited many countries of Europe, Scandinavia, Africa and Asia. They loved all the travel and meeting people of the world. Here in Bozeman they enjoyed their relationships in the Senior Dance Club, as well as their weekly pinochle and bridge groups.
Dr. McNeal is survived by his children, Linda (Vernon) Svensrud of Bozeman and Allen McNeal of Townsend; grandchildren, Angela (Robert) Worrell of Steamboat Springs, Colo., and Travis (Alexandra) Svensrud of Bozeman; four great-grandchildren, Zane and Cody Worrell and Oliver and Finley Svensrud; brother-in-law, Otis Shumaker of Clarkston, Wash.; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
Harry was preceded in death by his lifemate, Ora, his parents and sister, Irene.
Funeral Services will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at First Presbyterian Church. Interment will follow in Sunset Hills Cemetery. Visitation at Dokken-Nelson will be from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Should friends desire, memorials may be sent to the First Presbyterian Church Rockhaven Fund, P. O. Box 1150, Bozeman, MT 59771.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. www.dokkennelson.com
Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Sept. 18, 2011