Remembering my friend Joan Neal


[Editor’s note: Joan Neal, 82, died Dec. 5. A Fayetteville resident since 1952, Mrs. Neal personified the phrase, “a pillar of the community.” Fayette County historian Carolyn Cary shares some memories of her long-time friend.]

Of the 57 years Joan Neal lived in Fayette County, I have been privileged to have known her for 44 of those years here.

Her and Ray’s house was built about 1953, the first new house built in the Fayetteville area in 20 years. At that time. Fayette Countian Huie Bray built this house on a dirt road. Yes, Forrest Avenue, also known as Ga. Highway 92 North, was a dirt road then.

The best way to assimilate into a community is to take part in its various activities. One of those was the Democratic Party Association.

It seems that when she was but 3 years old Joan’s father took her to a Democratic Party meeting, stood her up on a table, and announced that he was paying her dues to belong to said organization.

She did not forget the moment, and spent her adult life volunteering for that party. All the “old timers” will tell you that she and longtime Inman resident, Frances Reeves, just about kept it going, single-handed.

When I moved to Fayetteville in 1966, there were eight Republicans in the entire county. Two lived in Fayetteville (one of those is still living here) and the other six lived in Brooks. About 30 years or more after that date, I was given the assignment of attending the Republican Party dinner at a local conference center. There were over 400 diners in attendance.

Joan just didn’t assimilate into the political scene, she participated in a number of county scenes, all outlined in her obituary. I observed her to always be enthusiastic about whatever she tackled, and I was always eager to join her.

On a personal note, back in the 1970s, a number of folks volunteered as EMTs. One night her husband was taken to “Sambo’s Clinic” (Dr. Ferrol Sams, Jr.) in the middle of the night. The doctor called us, we placed Ray inside, and were ready to take off to Atlanta. Though we preferred not to take family in the ambulance, Joan was going along, whether we liked it or not.

As we pulled out of the local clinic, I saw Dr. Sambo in one of our big rearview mirrors. He had his arms crossed and shaking his head back and forth, indication, at least to me, that we weren’t going to make it. Not wanting to alarm Joan, I used pig Latin, gobbledygook and any other way I could to pass on this information to our driver. Well, we made it that time, thanks to the Good Lord.

Joan Neal was a good example of moving into a new community, and becoming a much prized member of it. This particular prize is missed already.