McNeal praised for support, service to community

-A A +A
By Jeff Moore

Local businessman Jim McNeal is being remembered by his friends, community leaders and businessmen for his contributions to the community, Carrollton’s downtown and his church.

McNeal, 86, died at his home in Carrollton Monday.

Most people will know Jim from the hardware, TV, appliance and furniture store that he operated in downtown Carrollton. But those who knew and worked along beside him recall a man who was dedicated to his family, church and community.

Jim was a local boy, born in Wheatley, who attended and graduated from Carroll County High School.

“He’s been a good friend through the years,” Jim Fothergill said, who went to school with him.

Nancy Jo Grobmyer, who was behind Jim McNeal in high school, echoed Fothergill’s sentiments.

“He was a very kind man, from high school on,” she said. “He had that special smile. The last time I saw him at Welch’s (Riverside Restaurant), he still had that smile.”

After high school, Jim joined the Marine Corps, where he served a three-year tour of duty. His son Brad McNeal said his father was based on Midway Island during World War II.

When Jim’s stint in the Marines was up, he came back and attended the University of Kentucky, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering.

Grobmyer said Jim returned home to work at the store his father Siebert had opened in 1945, S.J. McNeal and Sons, which was located near the old Glauber’s shoe store on Main Street.

Brad said the business moved in 1955 to the corner of Fifth and Main StreThrough the years, however, Jim was involved in many other businesses.

Fothergill said it was Jim and business partner Jim Shepherd, a local attorney, who brought cable television to the city.

Brad said that Ohio Valley Cablevision got off the ground around 1973 and grew into a rather large business throughout the region. The company not only served Carrollton and Carroll County, it provided cable in Madison, Ind., and all of the cities around the Lexington, Ky., area into the early 1980s when they sold the business.

Jim also had a boat sales and service business in Carrollton in the 1950s and 60s. He also sold Honda motorcycles for a time up until the late 1960s, Brad said. He said selling motorcycles always bothered his father because he worried about someone getting injured on a bike he sold them. When Honda wanted him to take on cars too, Jim saw that as the time to give up the motorcycle sales part of his business.

Community and business leaders praised Jim for keeping his business in the city’s downtown.

Mayor Gene McMurry, who became friends with Jim after moving here in 1969, said he was a good businessman that has played an important role in the life of the city’s downtown.

“They have always been a part of the solid foundation in downtown,” he said of McNeal’s. Because of businesses such as McNeal’s, the office supply and the carpet store, McMurry said it has made it possible to bring other businesses to downtown Carrollton.

Grobmyer said Jim decided to stay downtown when as businesses move to other areas. He kept people coming downtown because of the service he offered.

“He was always there to help his customers,” she said.

His friend and fellow businessman Clarence “Duper” Craig said Jim’s death is a great loss to the community.

“We’ve been friends for years and years,” Craig said.

Craig, who owns Craig’s Do-It Center, said that he and Jim never considered each other competitors.

Despite the fact that they both had hardware stores in the same town, he said that he and his wife and Jim and his wife attended hardware shows together through the years.

The couples also enjoyed some time together out on Craig’s boat together.

“Our kids grew up together,” Craig said. They both have children in Georgetown, and they have remained good friends there.

Community involvement

Jim also took time to play a role in many aspects of the community, through his church and community organizations.

“He was a leader in our church,” Craig said, noting that he served as a deacon for 30 to 40 years at First Baptist Church in Carrollton.

The Rev. Dr. Chris White, pastor of the church for the past 16 years, said that Jim was a “prominent influence” in the church.

“As long as Jim was at the table, the world was better,” White said of Jim’s service to the church as a deacon. “He was a calming influence.”

Brad said the church has always been important to his father and his family.

“It’s always been a big part of our lives,” he said. That’s something he said his father established in all of his children.

“He was just the best role model a person could ever have,” he said. Brad said that his father never had a bad word to say about anyone. “He was the perfect role model, period,” he said. “... He’s a tough act to follow.”

Craig said Jim cared about the community, but liked to help from behind the scenes. But he serves on many committees and even the city council, despite not wanting to be in the spotlight.

Grobmeyer said Jim served on Carrollton City Council in 1968. She said he had left office by the time she joined council in 1974.

He also put his business experience to work for the First National Bank Board of Directors. Former bank president Malcolm Carraco said he served on the board for 37 years.

“He was very knowledgeable,” Carraco said, noting that Jim brought that to both the bank and to the community. “We’re really going to miss him.

Fothergill recalled that Jim worked hard when the Carroll County Community Development Corporation was formed 30 years ago to get it off the ground. He said Jim was one of the members who helped sell the shares to get it established.

Jim also was a past member of the Carrollton Rotary Club.

Rotarian Dennis Goff said he remembers Jim as “a reliable and eager participant when it came to Rotary events such as our pancake breakfasts.”

McMurry said that it was with Jim’s support that many good things have happened in the community.

 “He was always community-minded and a solid citizen,” McMurry said. He said Jim was very supportive of community activities, providing contributions, gifts and support to help with local clubs and organizations.

“The community will miss old big Jim,” he said.

Funeral services for Jim McNeal will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15 at First Baptist Church (see complete obituary, Page 3).ets, where it remained until 1980. At that point, Jim McNeal bought out Ogden Hardware on Fifth Street and he merged the two businesses together.

The store carried appliances and televisions, but they have since added furniture to the mix, along with the newly acquired hardware business, Brad McNeal said.