WARRENSBURG — Community members gathered Friday, Jan. 31, at the Missouri Veterans Home — Warrensburg for Happy Hour as a way to remember and honor the legacy of the late Marvin Neal.
Marvin Neal passed away a day earlier.
The Happy Hour ceremony was originally scheduled to honor Marvin’s service to veterans and veteran organizations in the community and present him with resolutions, proclamations and tokens of gratitude.
“It was to recognize his life and his accomplishments,” Eric Endsley, MVHW administrator, said of the initial reason for the ceremony.
Latisha Koetting, supervisor of volunteer services at the MVHW, was the emcee for the event.
“It’s a very special Happy Hour today as we honor Marvin Neal,” Koetting said. “He was the president of our Veterans Assistance League and served in this capacity for 25 years. We lost him yesterday and we would not have Happy Hour had it not been for Marvin Neal. So it only seems appropriate that we honor him here.”
Warrensburg Mayor Casey Lund, the Veterans Assistance League, the Elks, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and former and current community leaders spoke about the impact Marvin Neal had left on them and presented their tokens of appreciation to Marvin Neal’s family.
“There were a lot of things that meant a lot to him and that included the Missouri Veterans Home, the Elks, the American Legion and the VFW,” Koetting said.
Marvin Neal’s family was in attendance for the ceremony.
“He would have been humble about it and kind of would have said they really did not need to make that fuss but inside he would have been smiling from ear-to-ear,” Terry Neal, Marvin’s son, said.
A lasting legacy
Despite his passing, Marvin Neal will always be remembered at the Missouri Veterans Home — Warrensburg.
“Marvin has lots of legacies in the community,” Gary Grigsby, American Legion Department of Missouri senior vice commander, said. “This veterans home is no small part of that legacy.”
Marvin Neal played an instrumental part in bringing the home to Warrensburg.
“Without his efforts, there would not be a Missouri Veterans Home here in Warrensburg, Missouri,” Grigsbry said.
Terry Neal told of his dad’s time working on bringing the home to Warrensburg.
“It was amazing to see him work on it and go down to Jeff City,” Terry Neal said.
Marvin Neal worked with Deleta Williams, State Representative at the time, and a number of others to get the home in Warrensburg.
At the time, there were three veterans homes in the eastern portion of the state.
When it was decided the veterans homes would begin to be built across the western portion of the state, Warrensburg and Clinton were named finalists for a home in the area.
“When we were working on getting the veterans home here, it was a long process and it was difficult at many times,” Williams said.
Terry Neal said Marvin made some decisive moves in getting the home in Warrensburg.
Before making his final pitch to the state in favor of Warrensburg, Terry Neal said Marvin had contacted Johnson County and the City of Warrensburg about assisting with the construction of the home.
Marvin Neal asked the county to donate the land for the home and for the city to run utilities to the site, both of which happened.
Terry Neal said this saved more than $100,000 off the top of the construction cost.
“When he went down to make his presentation, he had already secured the land and he had already secured the utilities to come to the land,” Terry Neal said. “I think that sealed the deal.”
Terry Neal said Marvin showed great pride in the home.
“It was pretty neat,” Terry Neal said. “He was so proud when he came home that he had sealed the deal.”
Community members praised Marvin Neal for his role in bringing the home to Warrensburg.
“You are standing in it (the Missouri Veterans Home — Warrensburg),” Endsley said on Marvin’s legacy. “This entire building, he was one of the key leaders to make the Veterans Home of Warrensburg happen in Warrensburg.”
Endsley also credited Marvin Neal’s role as president in the West Central Missouri Veterans Assistance League in bringing the home to Warrensburg.
Marvin Neal helped found and was the lone president of the WCMVAL.
“We are in a new era where we have a brand new president,” Endsley said.
Terry Neal said it was not surprising how much time and effort his dad put into veterans organizations in the community.
“My dad was always the type of person that if he volunteered for something, he jumped in with both feet and would do whatever anybody who was running the show asked him to do,” Terry Neal said.
When remembering all that Marvin Neal did in his help of bringing the Missouri Veterans Home to Warrensburg, Williams said the word dependable best described Marvin.
“There were so many good characteristics that Marvin had that it is hard to pick one except going back to what I said a while ago that he was extremely dependable,” she said.
Paying their respect
The ceremony on Jan. 31 was originally scheduled to honor Marvin Neal as he recently stepped down as the president of the WCMVAL.
“He reluctantly resigned but we made it known to him that he was still part of our board and we wanted to do this for him,” Robert Simmons, member-at-large, said.
The WCMVAL named Marvin Neal the chairman emeritus.
“If he had a legacy, this is his,” Simmons said.
As each person presented Marvin Neal’s family with a token of appreciation, they each recounted their experiences with him.
Royce Kelb, state surgeon of the VFW, told of how he met Marvin Neal in 1994.
“Marvin was a pistol,” he said.
Williams told of how she always knew Marvin Neal had her back.
“It was always a pleasure to work with Marvin and I always knew that I could count on him,” she said.
Grigsby talked about Marvin Neal’s accomplishments during his 65 years serving the American Legion.
“We wanted to pay our respects to Marvin,” he said.
Carla Burlingame, accountant at MVHW, worked with Marvin Neal for 19-and-a-half years, the time the home has been open.
“I have always appreciated how supportive he has been of the home and the activities and all the needs of the home,” she said.
Darrell Quinley represented the Elks in honoring Marvin Neal.
“I would like you to know this was written the day before yesterday but is just as valid today as it was yesterday or the day before,” he said.
An everlasting hug
Before the end of the formal portion of the ceremony, Howard Good, representing the Warrensburg VFW, had one last presentation for the Neal family.
Good told of how he will remember Marvin Neal.
“I never saw a person that gave more of himself,” Good said.
Good said Marvin Neal left a lasting impact on everyone at the Warrensburg VFW.
For that, the VFW got Marvin Neal a Quilt of Honor.
“I was planning on giving this to Marvin today, but he went off and left me, again, he is always out in front,” Good said.
Each Quilt of Honor is specially made for its recipient.
“This represents everything that Marvin really loved,” Good said.
He said the quilt is something that would have reminded Marvin and will remind his family that he is loved.
“It was going to represent all of the arms that could reach around and give him warmth,” Good said. “When you feel the warmth of this quilt, it is all of us putting our arms around you.”
Good said Marvin Neal always put the needs of everyone else at the forefront.
“His exceptionalism just came in his love of just wanting to and loving to work with people and accomplish things for veterans, but really anybody in need is what he was all about,” Good said.
Good recounted one of his final conversations with Marvin Neal.
“I spoke to him about that, I said ‘Boy, we are going to not have your experience and your knowledge when you lose someone,’ and he always had firm belief in the veterans and our members and said, ‘Oh, someone will step up,’” Good said.
Good said Marvin Neal will never be forgotten.
“The main thing we lose by losing Marvin is that he was just a wonderful person to have around,” Good said. “You knew you always had someone that was looking out for your benefits, fighting for your privileges. His legend will live on, his accomplishments will never be forgotten here, especially at the veterans home.”Managing Editor of Digital Publishing Derek Brizendine can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, by calling (660) 747-8123 or on Twitter at @DerekBrizendine.