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Remembering Jim Neal

"Driving with Jim: A Reflection" by Janet Allie

"Tomorrow will be better," had been the daily missive that Jim Neal gave to his coworkers as he exited the building to head home for the night.


Jim Neal began working for Western States in 1969 as a Traffic Assistant, having been recruited from a logistics company. Three months later, he moved to be the Parts Correspondent, a job he has held – with varying titles – ever since.

The postage stamps that Jim always had available in his desk drawer for his colleagues to buy for personal use cost .06 cents in 1969! A new car (of which Jim had gone through a few, I hear) cost approximately $2,000.00. A pound of sugar cost .12 cents retail (as opposed to today’s .63 per pound).

Notable events in the year he was hired at Western States include Richard Nixon being elected President of the United States, Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, and Sesame Street debuting on public television!

Times may have changed, but Jim’s incontestable spirit and irrepressible positivity never wavered! Jim shared that his longevity at Western States was due to the fact that he truly enjoyed what he did. He had a bond with the reps and his customers that few can emulate. He had invested in their families and lives, and he enjoyed receiving updates and pictures.

When asked what the most enjoyable thing was about working here, Jim quickly pointed to the friendships he developed with the people here as the key to what kept him content in his job for so long. He regularly called Western States’ friends his family – a designation taken to heart.

Time at Western States, however, was not always easy. Jim shared that his greatest challenge while here was staying positive during Western States’ down period – the time they downsized from around 200 people to around 30. It was a struggle coming to work every day, not knowing if he had a job or not – a feeling shared by many at the time.


In fact, if he could have changed anything in Western States’ history, he wished that he had held the power to keep the shop open during that time and found a new location for the company instead of having to outsource the work. He would even have been willing to relocate to Miami, Florida, when that was presented as a possible solution for the rapidly decaying facility and difficult financial times!

Anyone who spent any time getting to know Jim knew that he had had a lot of memorable things happen! One such memory he shared is of the time that Terry Bradshaw and Waite Hoyt, a play-by-play voice of the Cincinnati Reds for 24 years, came to visit the office to promote a travel agency. He remembered conversing with them for a bit but admits that he didn’t know who Terry Bradshaw was until after they had left, even though he had admired Bradshaw’s Super Bowl ring!

Another of his favorite memories included a time Pfizer sent in a rep from China to the office. Jim had ducked behind a drinking fountain in order to scare Linda Schuck, who he thought was coming around the corner. It turns out that the person coming around the corner was the rep! When Jim jumped out from behind the fountain, the rep jumped back, screaming things Jim couldn’t understand in complete surprise. A while later, that rep returned and made it a point to stop by Jim’s desk and request that he not scare him to death during this visit!

Among such memorable events, a group of representatives from a customer in Japan came over to inspect the items in their order. Jim Neal picked them up from the airport and was available to escort them around town and show them some sights. They were fascinated with Jim’s car at the time – the old blue Mercury. The highlight of their trip was when our guests had to help Jim change a flat tire on the side of the road!

Jim personally influenced many at-risk children who were tossed aside and given up on throughout their lives, giving them love and hope they had not had before. Never have I known someone with so much capacity to love those who others might find undeserving. Jim had an uncanny ability to find even the tiniest glimmer of light in the darkest of situations. He loved greatly and abundantly.

After a year and a half of knowingly battling brain cancer, Jim Neal passed from this life into his eternal home on the morning of June 30th. As we are left to mourn Jim’s seemingly untimely passing; we know that he would smile at us, maybe even chuckle a little and tell us: "Tomorrow will be better."


Western States is closed on July 4th and July 5th in observance of Independence Day. If you have an emergency, please call 513.863.4758.

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