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Donald McNeely

McNeely, Donald Age 94, of White Bear Lake, MN and Pebble Beach, CA Donald McNeely died on March 9 in Pebble Beach, California, a place he had been drawn to since discovering it as a young man about to ship off to the Pacific Theater of WWII. He was 94 years old and his long life was filled with adventures and successes, unflagging faith and courage, and boundless acts of kindness. Up to the end, he was as sharp as the day he graduated from Yale in 1937. A student of history, keen on current events, and always eager to know more about the world, his enthusiasm for life was evident in his booming voice and ready cheerfulness. Don was born on July 10, 1914, in St. Paul, MN and went to St. Paul Academy where sports became one of his grand delights. He won the state squash championship in 1955-57, threw the ball around with his friend, Hank Greenberg, in wartime baseball games, and played tennis until he was 90. In 1962, he became co-owner of the Minnesota Vikings and helped bring the Washington Senators to Minnesota as the Minnesota Twins. He enjoyed the company of others and that translated into club memberships around the country, many involving golf and tennis, like the Cypress Point Club in Pebble Beach, the White Bear Lake Yacht Club, the Yale Club and River Club of New York City; the Minneapolis Club; the Los Angeles Country Club; and the Old Capital Club in Monterey, CA. Sportsmanship influenced how he lived his life. Fair and honorable (his son Kevin said he never made a joke at someone else's expense), he supported causes important to him and paid tribute to those who helped him along the way. He memorialized his beloved aunt and uncle with the Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum at the Minnesota State Fair and the Warner Palestra sports center at St. John's University in Collegeville, MN (where he also funded the Donald McNeely Spectrum, the campus field house), and helped establish the Rose Warner Writing Center and the soon-to-be Rose Warner Science Lab at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN. He was dedicated to environmental education which resulted over forty years ago in the creation of The Lee and Rose Warner Nature Center, which partners with the Science Museum of Minnesota. He raised five children with his wife and great love, Marjorie, and founded in her name the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park, the Marjorie McNeely Gallery at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the Marjorie McNeely Fund for the Blind or Illiterate in Monterey County, CA. A savvy entrepreneur and a forward thinker, he joined his father's business - The St. Paul Terminal Warehouse Company - after the war and turned it into a national company called Space Center, Inc. He was co-founder of Control Data Corporation and his past directorships include Buckbee-Mears; Conwed Corporation; North Star Research & Development Institute; North Star Steel; Northwest Airlines; Wells Fargo (Norwest Bank); and Red Owl Stores. To give young men and women the skills to succeed in business, he established the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship at St. John's University in Collegeville, MN. From his home on Manitou Island in White Bear Lake, MN, Don reached out into the community and beyond to help guide religious, civic, arts, and educational organizations like the Catholic Charities, Como Friends, Guthrie Theater, The McNeely Foundation, YMCA, and Yale University where he founded scholarships. He was a generous man, not only with his resources and his time, but also with his heart. His daughter Nora wrote of her father last year that his rich and meaningful life had created a character that was "deep, genuine, complicated, and beautiful." Those who knew him are lucky souls indeed. His wife Marjorie (née Reeds) died in 1998. His children, Nora McNeely (Michael) Hurley, Robin Brooks Tost, Greg McNeely, Kevin (Rosemary) McNeely, and Peter (Incy) Brooks, survive him, as do his grandchildren Jamie, Jen, Peter Jr., Holly, and Hannah Rose and great-grandchildren Piper, Penn, and Miles. A memorial Mass and reception to celebrate his life will be held in the spring. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park, 1225 Estabrook Drive, St. Paul, MN 55103

Published in Pioneer Press from Mar. 11 to Mar. 15, 2009
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