As I have referenced in the past, the entire spirit of this Real Men project was to pay tribute to the men that mean so much to me. Shaped me. Had an honest and true impact on my life.
To date, nearly all of these men I have had the privilege to recognize were friends of the late, great Frank Senior or my powerful blood brothers (uncles essentially).
As I sadly walked in to the Dockray and Thomas Funeral Home in Canton Massachusetts this afternoon to say goodbye to a true Real Man, it reminded me of the very reason I wanted to create this series of stories; to tell these men how important they were – before they were gone from this earthy world.
I have no interest in writing obituaries. My poor Dad spent 40 years of his life doing that meaningful, but painful, chore as a faithful funeral director. And he hated it.
I simply want to acknowledge some great freakin’ dudes of the world. That’s it. Period.
Today, heartbreakingly, I had to give my Father-Son-Holy Spirit through glassy, teary eyes to my wife’s Uncle, Leo McNeil.
Uncle Leo was just 64 years old and fought – like so many – a ridiculous bout with cancer. (Boy, do I hate you cancer. I’ll save that rant for another time)
Leo was the epitome of an old school gentleman. Kind, funny, cool and charismatic. A throw back. A unique specimen that fully deserves the wonderful celebration and mourning of his beautiful life I witnessed today, Leo loved hard and gave hard. A true servant and soldier of God, Leo is a 1st ballot Hall of Fame Human in my estimation.
I loved Leo.
But, Leo reminded me that I don’t want to pen another post-mortem story. No thanks.
Wisely, I took the time to tribute my FIL (father-in-law) several months back. I typed the words I wanted him to read and understand about what he means to me. Proud I did so, and hopefully I remain in his will. ;).
However, my MIL (mother in law) is 1 of 8 children. Leo, the only male in the brood of Big Leo and Ruth, the other seven lady McNeils clearly have a way with the weaker sex. Minus their dear sister Jean, who died many years back from the results of a brain tumor, the other McNeil Misses lassoed themselves a barnful of studs!
Let me just give you the briefest of descriptions, but these are the definition of Real Men and I am so thankful they have been a part of my world for over 25 years….
Uncle Ed – married to oldest McNeil, Nancy, flat-top-quaffed Ed is the big strong silent type. Pretty sure he called me by my actual name once, just a straight down the middle solid guy. John Wayne style man. Respect.
Uncle “Tut” – I didn’t know this guy’s actual name was ‘Paul’ until today, I think. An Italiano James Bond, Tut is a smooth, cool cat. A shaken, never stirred brand of gentleman. Hand him a golf club, martini, cigar …he makes it all look good. A great hugger and a great friend.
Uncle Pat – Sioux City Iowa native, a quiet rock star of a man, Pat is unassumingly cool. Give this guy a guitar and some time and you will simply relax and be intoxicated by his company. Pat is a man that gives you faith in in the notion of genuine kindness. A warm, welcoming human being.
Uncle Paul – Sharing a birthday with Jesus Christ, Paul may have actually given more to this world than our Savior himself. When I first came on the scene to the McNeil Clan, Christmas Day, Paul wasn’t celebrating his birthday but awaiting a call from the bone marrow receiver he anonymously donated to a year earlier….you know, just because he is awesome. You kidding me? Paul is one of the best, bad ass good guys matriculating around this big blue ball.
Uncle Steve – Steve, the baby of the McNeil-In-Law-brethren is simply just an awesome man. Smart, confident and fun. This dude bought a Winnebago to get to Buffalo for couple Patriots snaps each year! Spawn a crazy Polack Clan, Steve and his merry band of kids have fun – a lot of fun. Great guy – simply stated.
And let us not forget Ginny. The lone female in-law to the McNeil Testosterone Amalgam. Leo’s widow. 😦 Ginny can roll with any of these men mentioned above. Classy, kind, tough and fun Irish lady. You have an army behind you during these awful times.
So, in summation, not a bad group to call “family”. As we mourn Leo during these days, we take solace in what an incredible group of men (and woman) converged in to an already amazing family.
Thanks for not beating me up, fellas.
Rest easy, Leo.