This Saturday his progeny, led by his daughter, Sara Jane Dunn, will join fellow family members to lead the procession through downtown Beeville, serving as parade marshals.
Chamber board members have decided on the theme “Cowboy Up” for this year’s parade in honor of Neal’s reputation as “a real cowman.”
The parade also will be dedicated to the memory of two men who tirelessly worked each year toward seeing that Beeville had the best parade possible, Wilburn “Denk” Denkeler and Brien G. Hickman.
Neal accomplished many milestones in his 86 years. He had been a longtime member and former director of the South Texas Hereford Association and Texas Hereford Association when he and his wife, Flossie, were the honorees at the annual fall Hereford Show in 1975.
Neal passed away in 1998 in a Houston hospital. He was born in 1912 in Stratton, near Yoakum, and he married Flossie Davis in 1939.
The rancher had earned a bachelor’s degree in 1935 from Texas A&M University. He paid his way through college during the Depression, working the last three years as a janitor and milking cows three times a day for 25 cents an hour.
He was captain of Troop A Cavalry and named in the Aggie yearbook as a charter member of the Greenhorn “Goodfellows.”
He taught vocational agriculture at Buda and a year later joined the U.S. Army where he served in the 12th Cavalry at Fort Brown.
In 1937 Neal joined the staff at the Texas A&M Experiment Station in Beeville. He returned to the Army during WWII and served as a cavalry officer until 1945 when he left with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
He came back to Beeville and served as the superintendent of the A&M Experiment Station until his retirement with 37 years of service.
Neal leased the Dobie Ranch in Live Oak County in 1951 and began running commercial cattle. That continued for the next 33 years during periods of drought, screwworm infestations and a fallen cattle market. During the 1960s, Neal led the fight to eradicate screwworms.
After a hearing loss in 1980, Neal sold his commercial cattle and began concentrating on raising registered Herefords.
Over the years, Neal served in many important positions and volunteered his time to numerous functions. He served as president of the Kiwanis Club, was a director of the Bee County Farm Bureau, held positions as president, secretary and assistant secretary of the STHA, was on the board of directors of the First Federal Savings and Loan, served two terms as president of the Bee County Chamber of Commerce and was a member of Rotary International.
Neal and others started the Bee County Junior Livestock Show and Sale in 1952 and he was one of that organization’s directors for two years. He remained active in that event for many years after leaving the board.
The 1979 edition of the show’s catalog was dedicated to Neal and he was the trail boss of the 1989 Bee County Western Week Celebration.
Another community leader and rancher, Ed Brown, called Neal “a real cowman, a fine gentleman and a dear, dear friend.”
The two men for whom this year’s event is being dedicated, Denkeler and Hickman, died this year. And both had a long history of volunteering for the annual event.
Denkeler served in many capacities during the years he worked on the CofC’s parade committee. But his major input for the event came when it was time to take the Bee County Chamber of Commerce float to other communities to participate in their parades and festivals.
Denkeler would have the float on the road in the wee hours of the morning to be sure it was lined up with the Western Week queen’s court in time to be judged.
He took pride in taking on the huge task of getting the float to other communities.
Hickman was considered a man of many talents and took on a number of responsibilities as a member of the chamber’s parade committee.
Mostly, he was known for his ability to organize.
Hickman, also a rancher, usually took charge of the parade’s horse groups. It was Hickman who made sure that the riders were formed up in their proper area and it was he who would judge their performance.
He always performed his task with patience, expertise, proficiency and love of what he saw in the youth of the community.
Longtime parade committee members said Hickman was able to reassure and encourage the riders and see to it that their participation in the parade would be safe.
Chamber members commended both men for their dedication to the community and to the CofC parade.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.