Robert Walter Neal
24 December 1896 - 16 April 1985
Myrtle Emma Parma Thomsen
29 January 1905 - 26 November 1984
Jean, Robert, Frances and Myrtle Neal, early 1940's
By Susan Ganasci
BOB AND MYRTLE NEAL are life-time members of the Church of the Cross. Bob served on the first Consistory of the Paradise Community Reformed Church as a deacon. He then served as an Elder on the second Consistory. Myrtle was the new church’s very first pianist and organist. They signed the original building contract and served on the Building and Organization Committee.
They have both been very active in community affairs and are the originators of many of the Burbank-Paradise community projects. Myrtle served on the committee to get an elementary school in the area. The result of her committee’s efforts was the building of Burbank Elementary School. She also worked to get city bus service in the community. Bob was one of the men to circulate a petition for the organization of the Burbank-Paradise Volunteer Fire Dept. Bob recalls that there was only one man in the area who refused to sign the petition. With a chuckle he relates that this man’s house was the first to burn down after the formation of the fire district!
The Neals have watched many church families grow-up in a two block area of their home which they built on Picardy Drive in 1938. Some of those families are the Anderson’s, the Missals, the Watermans, the Werners, the Mattox’s, the Ebbies, the Kyles and Cummings.
Before living in Calif., the Neals lived in the Midwest. Bob was born and raised in Sac City, Iowa. Myrtle, whose maiden name was Thomsen, was born in Neeley, Nebraska and raised in the Neeley-Tilden area. Bob came from a family of eight and Myrtle is from a family of five. Bob has one sister who is 93 years old. Myrtle has a brother in San Francisco and a sister in Tilden.
Bob recalls his school days in Sac City and one incident stands out amongst the rest. Seems as if every morning two children had to go get water for the classroom and one morning Bob and his cousin Adam were chosen. On the way they decided to stop by Bob’s house to get a fresh baked donut. It was Monday morning and Bob’s mom always baked bread on Mondays. Not in a hurry to get back to school, they stopped to catch a few frogs. They finally returned to school with a bucket of water and a few green friends, which Bob says they innocently threw by the wayside. Well, one of the frogs landed in the bucket of water and surfaced at a most inopportune time—just as a rather large classmate named “Sally” peered over the edge of the dipper into the bucket. “Sally” let out a holler heard for miles. Bob and Adam spent the rest of the year deprived of recess and noon privileges. Bob swears this was a great injustice and undeserved punishment!
Myrtle’s school days stories are much different, and she has her high school report card to prove it--the lowest grade being an 88 in Botany. After graduating from high school in 1923, Myrtle taught school in Tilden. She spent one summer in Chadron, Nebraska and this is where she met Bob. Seems as if he was sitting with the boys in the back row of the Baptist Church and gave Myrtle a big wink as she walked out. (Bob said she winked at him, but Myrtle tells it differently). He asked Myrtle’s friend Violet to introduce them and Violet said she would only if Bob bought her a box of candy for her efforts. Bob promptly bought Violet a box of candy and the trap was set. Bob spent the rest of the summer courting Myrtle in his Model T Ford Coupe. Bob, always loving the outdoors, would drive Myrtle to the local lake for a little bird watching and a little sparking!! But alas, Myrtle had to return to Tilden and so their courtship was continued via the U. S. Post Office. After 1½ years of courting, Bob and Myrtle were married in the Methodist Parsonage in Neeley. They have been married for fifty-six years. How’s that for commitment!
Their first ten years of marriage were lived in Sheridan, Wyo., where Bob was employed in the hardware business. Both of their children, Jean and Frances, were born there. Bob and Myrtle and girls moved to L.A. in 1936, where Bob attended diesel school for seven months. From there they moved to Modesto where Bob worked for the Defense Department in Stockton. After the war he went to work for National Can Co. He retired from there after eighteen years of service. Bob has been retired for twenty-one years. After retirement they lived in Wampum Hill for about four years. The Neals will be leaving soon to attend Myrtle’s sixtieth class reunion in Tilden, Neb. Bob says Myrtle is anxious to look up her old boyfriends. One would never guess Bob is 86. I asked him the secret of his youthful appearance and he said “Myrtle’s good cooking, hard work, and getting my own way!” He also says “Myrtle’s a pretty good old gal”, and he guesses he’ll keep her around for forty years of 40,000 miles, whichever comes first. Myrtle says they have had a good life together. They have two daughters, six grandchildren and six great grandchildren, the newest being their only great-grandson, Steven Robert. The Neals enjoy the fellowship they have with their Church family and we enjoy them. May God richly bless them and their loved ones.
From the Modesto, California Church of the Cross newsletter, May 1983
Go to Family Photos
Go to Bob's Memories