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Lake life

A living Bible verse

It was a hot, hot summer day. A group of us “white hats” had been through the paper mill where I used to work in a rented Schwan’s truck loaded down with ice cream sandwiches, handing them out to our thousand or so employees to encourage them to stay cool and safe. We had finished the “day shift” and I had returned to my office and was enjoying one myself. Okay, maybe two. Here comes Neal DeForest, one of the most talented instrument electricians I’ve ever known, from his job down on the woodyard.

“So that’s what you do all day. Sit in your office and eat ice cream sandwiches”, he said with a wry grin that let you know he’s got you. It was even more effective than the parting “okay, Pod” (short for podnuh) you’d get when one of you had the upper edge in the verbal jousting.

That was some 15-16 years ago. It never failed that, no matter where I saw him, he always brought up the topic of ice cream sandwiches. If he ever talked about me or somebody asked about me, he’d ask if I had an ice cream sandwich when they saw me. I had a comeback. I always asked, “well, Neal, what were you doing away from your work area up in my air conditioned office during the work day anyway?” I know. It didn’t work with him, either.

The legend of the ice cream sandwich grew larger than the Schwan’s truck itself and never failed to bring a laugh. It wasn’t but a couple of months ago when we had a big get-together at my house to celebrate  Little George getting married.  We had finished the party and some of us sat down at the kitchen table.

Neal DeForest, right, Joey Young and Dan Turner enjoy an ice cream sandwich.

Neal DeForest, right, Joey Young and Dan Turner enjoy an ice cream sandwich.

I’m surprised we didn’t have ice cream sandwiches“, Neal said. Ah HA!!!  I was ready for him. I jumped up, opened the freezer door and handed everybody one. We had one of the biggest laughs ever, and even though almost everybody had already heard the story, yep… Neal told it again. And we laughed some more.

I wish I would have written this a week earlier. That way Neal Allen DeForest, Sr., could have read it and known for sure how I, and so many more, felt. He was a guy you couldn’t help but like. Unfortunately, Neal passed away suddenly this week. It was a shock. It was very sad. But his life and his beliefs will stand firm as a comfort for those who knew and loved him, especially his family.

But I’m not writing this today to talk about ice cream sandwiches, or even the days several decades ago when Neal and I both donned bright yellow one-piece jumpsuits (what you’d call today “styling”…) with Bussey Bass Club embroidered in red on the back and more patches up and down the sleeves than we had fish.

I reserve this space on Sunday for Bible verses and short stories to go with them.That’s why I’m writing about Neal today. He was a man who lived what he believed. Not just on Sunday. Not when it was convenient. Not when it was easy. All the time.

Neal was, indeed, a living Bible verse. If you didn’t know that before, it became apparent when, after an hour long tribute to him at his funeral was over, it took two hours for all the friends, and former co-workers, neighbors and church members to hug family members, convey their condolences and share the love of Christ that Neal spread during this life one more time in his honor .

 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.    — Matthew 5:16

One more thing. Neal and his wife, Becky, were daily readers of lakedarbonnelife.com.  I’m going to miss knowing he was reading each day. He encouraged me often, in person or by text message or email, just as he did so many others in their endeavors. Today I’m going on the back porch, take a good long look at the lake and eat an ice cream sandwich. And thank God for Neal DeForest and his work on this earth.


9 thoughts on “A living Bible verse

  1. I can’t say I knew Neal like most people reading this, but the few times I had the privilege to be with him in New York, I spent time with a true gentleman. He loved life, friends and of course his family. He will be sorely missed.

    Posted by Les Katz | August 2, 2013, 12:3612:02 am
  2. Even though I never met Neal, I somehow feel I knew him. One of the greatest compliments you can give a guy is that “He’s the type of fellow that you enjoy being confined with on a floating object in the middle of a body of water for a whole day”. I believe that Neal was that kind of guy.

    Posted by Bob Mitcham | July 29, 2013, 12:3611:28 pm
  3. What, yet, another beautiful tribute to a really unbelievable Christian – Husband, Father, Father-in-Law, Grandfather, Uncle, Brother and Friend who lived, ate, breathed, walked the walk and talked the talk of his undying faith for all the world to see – – – Linda Candella

    Posted by Linda Candella | July 29, 2013, 12:365:02 pm
  4. Wonderful tribute to Neal and his family; thank you so much for sharing your heart.

    Posted by Ginger Limerick | July 29, 2013, 12:363:39 pm
  5. Kinney, loved your story here. A nice story about a really nice person —and it is true. Glad y’all are happy on the lake.

    Posted by Zanona Rogers | July 28, 2013, 12:3612:37 pm
  6. As a young kid just out of engineering school, I too was one of those “white hats” back in the late 80’s. I was assigned to work with a group of men from the Woodyard Maintenance crew to come up with cost and quality improvement ideas. Neal was in that crew as was Andy Coats and other truly good men. What they taught me at work was valuable to me even today. What Neal and Becky taught me and my wife Robin, as their neighbors down the street and fellow church members is priceless. How they love Jesus! May I exemplify Him even just a little portion of how much they did and continue to do so.

    Posted by Scott Sullivan | July 28, 2013, 12:3612:28 pm
  7. Kinny, This is the absolute sweetest tribute to Neal. Oh, that such truths can be said of each of us when our time comes. Blessings to you and DiAnne!

    Posted by Lea | July 28, 2013, 12:3610:32 am
  8. Darn screen got blurry……..

    Posted by Si | July 28, 2013, 12:3610:11 am
  9. Thanks for sharing about Dad. You always brought a smile to his face.

    Posted by Neal Allen DeForest Jr | July 28, 2013, 12:361:31 am

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