McNEAL, HELEN L., 91
Ocala - Helen L. McNeal, 91, died on Saturday, July 6, 2013 at home.
Helen was born in Groveland, Florida on December 10, 1921 to Edward D. McKinney and Mahala McKinney. She graduated from Naples High School in 1941 where she was an outstanding student and star basketball player. She came to Ocala to study business administration at a vocational school located in Camp Roosevelt. While she was there, she met her future husband, Raymond "Bunny" McNeal, who was attending the University of Florida
. She left Ocala to work for the National Housing Agency in Washington, D.C., but when Raymond called and asked her to marry him, she returned. They were married on October 11, 1942 by Judge D.R. Smith after Raymond played in his last football game for the Gators. The next month Raymond was drafted into the Army.
Her first child, Edward Louis McNeal, was born in 1943, but died of rheumatic fever in 1945, while Raymond was stationed in Corsica with the Army Air Corp. World War II
was winding down in Europe, but they did not allow him to come home. This was a time of great sadness and loneliness for both of them.
Following World War II, Helen devoted herself to being a wife and mother. In 1960, she went to work for the Supervisor of Elections office where she became Chief Deputy Supervisor of Elections. In 1973, she was elected as the Supervisor of Elections, an office she held until her retirement in 1986.
She had a stellar career. She was the first constitutional officer in Marion County to hire an African-American to work directly with the public which paved the way for other officials to do the same. She was instrumental in getting Marion County to switch from voting with the old voting machines to computers, saving the county thousands of dollars and establishing Marion County as a leader in operating a modern elections system. Helen wanted everyone to exercise their right to vote. In 1984, she had 116 special voter-registration drives and enlisted 26 banks and 19 other organizations to register voters every day during their regular business hours. She went to high schools all over the county to register students who were 18 and over. She assisted with school elections to encourage student registration and voting. Under her leadership, the voter turnout in the 1985 general election was over 81%, one of the highest turnouts in the state.
Helen received numerous awards from local organizations, including the Ocala Women's Club, Marion County Senior Services, Ocala Jaycees, Optimist Club, American Cancer Society, and the Chamber of Commerce, Industrial Development Council.
She was a member of the Methodist faith all of her life. She was baptized at age 12 and served as the president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship in Naples, Florida for four years. She joined First United Methodist Church of Ocala when she moved here in 1943. She served on many church committees and was chairman of the Board of Trustees for two years and president of the United Methodist Women for two years.
Helen is survived by her loving husband of 71 years, Raymond L. McNeal and their children, Raymond T. McNeal (Marilyn); Susan L. Tittle, Herbert R. McNeal, and Doyle Keith McNeal, all living in Ocala. She is also survived by grandchildren, Raymond J. McNeal, Chris S. McNeal, Matthew W. Tittle, Stacy Helen Fox, Denise Harris, Amy L. Davidson, Janet L. McNeal; and step-granddaughters, Carla J. Sansone and Michele Lowe. Survivors also include eight great-grandchildren.
A service will be held on Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 11:00 o'clock in the morning at the First United Methodist Church of Ocala, 1126 East Silver Springs Blvd., followed by interment in the Hillcrest section of Highland Memorial Park with Dr. John Few and Reverend Allen Johnson officiating. Visitation will be from 6 to 8 o'clock in the evening on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at Hiers-Baxley Funeral Home, 910 East Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala.
Memorial contributions may be made to the First United Methodist Church of Ocala.