Sidney Neely

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    - Wesley and Sherry Bruce

Sidney Landry Neely, Sr. CHARLOTTE - Sidney Landry Neely, Sr., of Charlotte, NC, died peacefully at home on March 21, 2013, after a brief illness. Born in Memphis, TN, on October 13, 1919, he was the oldest of eight children born to the late Lillian Landry and Eugene Austin Neely. Shortly before his death and having never lost his dry wit, Mr. Neely said, "At this point in my obituary, disregard the customary practice of commenting on where I am going to spend eternity. I am fully confident the good Lord has the ability to make that decision on His own without any helpful suggestions from earthly beings." Mr. Neely attended high school in High Point, NC, and Louisville, KY, and studied at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Louisville. He served as First Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps (now the U.S. Air Force) and was stationed in the Tonga Islands within the South West Pacific Theater during World War II. When he returned from the war, Mr. Neely boarded a train in San Francisco and headed to Hammond, LA, where he and Mildred Witherspoon Gideon, whom he had met while stationed in Baton Rouge, were married on July 5, 1943. Many of the local businesses, although closed for the holiday weekend, opened their doors wide to help make the wedding a success. The couple had four children, affectionately known as the 4 B's - Butch, Bobby, Betsy and Beverly. Mr. and Mrs. Neely had been married 60 years and 29 days when Mildred passed away, on August 4, 2003. Mr. Neely had the good fortune to find love again, and he married Virginia Jabara Black on July 26, 2005. They enjoyed seven-and-a-half years of marriage, devoted to one another. Widely known as a true diplomat and a man of sterling character, Mr. Neely was a loving husband, a wonderful father, a spirited adventurer, a top marketer and a lifelong entrepreneur. His last and most successful business was his real estate publishing company, Neely Associates, Inc., based in Charlotte. Mr. Neely, along with his business "family," as his employees referred to themselves, launched Apartment Finder guidebooks in Charlotte; Columbia, Charleston and Greenville/Spartanburg, SC; Savannah, GA; and Washington, D.C. He also founded Home Finder guidebooks in Charlotte, Orlando, FL, and Austin, TX, as well as Business Properties magazine and CITI Magazine in Charlotte. He served on Gov. Jim Martin's Small Business Advocacy Council and, in 1983, he received the first annual Enterpriser of the Year Award presented by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and the Charlotte News. He was also a recipient of the Lex Marsh Award, the highest honor given by the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association. After selling his publishing business in 1988, Mr. Neely and his wife, Mildred, traveled extensively and enjoyed time with their grandchildren. Unknown to many was Mr. Neely's love of flying. As a teenager, he flew on the first commercial flight from Memphis to Chattanooga and caught "the bug." Prior to enlisting in the Army Air Corps, he took flying lessons and was looking forward to his first solo flight. Unfortunately, it was scheduled for Sunday, December 7, 1941, and all air traffic was cancelled. Still young at heart and adventurous in his 60s, Mr. Neely became an avid glider pilot. His last flight, and perhaps one of his most treasured, was the WW II Flight of Honor for veterans, in 2009. Recently, Mr. Neely commented, "I have enjoyed being known as a 'skinflint' and a 'tightwad,' but actually I was a soft touch for any and every charitable request that came my way." (He was not so generous with his poker buddies.) Mr. Neely was involved in a number of volunteer and civic organizations over the years, and his most recent volunteer work included SCORE and Crisis Assistance Ministries. It was through another volunteer at Crisis Assistance Ministries that he met his wife, Virginia. Mr. Neely was predeceased by his youngest daughter, Bev Neely Bruce, and son-in-law, Robert Bruce; brothers, Austin, Bill, Steve and Byrd; sisters-in-law, Mary Edith and Peggy; and nephew, Chris. In addition to his wife, Mr. Neely is survived by his son, Sidney L. Neely, Jr., his son and daughter-in-law, Robert Gideon Neely and Patricia Prosser Neely, and his daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth Neely Heafner and James H. Heafner. Also, stepsons, Michael Carley (Irena), Stephen Carley (Linde); grandchildren, Steven Gregg Neely, Alexander Landry Neely, Elizabeth Talbot Neely (Matt Barnes), Neely Bruce Edwards (Konata), Caroline Sydney Bruce; step-grandchildren Kim Jorgensen (John), Rob Ricketson (Jennifer), Edward Carley, Jack Carley and Virginia Carley; his brother, Jim Neely (Betty); sisters, Landry Neely and Mary Poff; and sisters-in-law, Judy Neely and Carolyn Neely; as well as nine great-grandchildren, 18 nieces and nephews, and a special family friend, Diana Ivey. Mr. Neely was a long-time member of St. John's Episcopal Church and, more recently, a member of St. Martin's Episcopal Church. The service will be held Friday, April 12, 2013, at 11:00 a.m. at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, 1510 E. 7th St., Charlotte, NC, 28204, followed by a reception at the church. Inurnment will be at a later time. The family would like to thank the many medical professionals, caregivers and friends who provided compassionate and loving care during Mr. Neely's illness. Memorials may be made to Crisis Assistance Ministries, 500 Spratt St., Charlotte, NC 28206.

Published in Charlotte Observer from Mar. 24 to Apr. 7, 2013