Being A Friend of Neils
|By Gerry Shannon, Director|
|When I first met Neil Shea it was a different world. The sixties in San Francisco were a place of rapid change. There were places people congregated to tell stories and everyone seemed to know one another. I knew Neil was Kevins big brother. I heard he was as intimidating off the football field, as he was on it, with his good buddy Angelo Crudo. Watching him behind the plank, at the Ports a local West Portal pub, I didnt even want to order from his end. I would go to the other end of the bar because Neil looked like he would rather be sitting and enjoying his friends, then tending bar. Then as I watched closer I was drawn in to his persona. Everyoneloved to talk to Neil; Moriarty and his pal since childhood, Ray Greggins, always gave him a bad time and it was a safe bet Bill Price would be there to join in. If you saw him when his parents were arouI would hear him talk to Cob and realize he was very philosophical. It didnt take long to realize what a nice guy Neil was, not a soft touch by any stretch, just a nice guy. nd you got a glimpse of The Real Neil.|
|I also realized everyone talked to him not because he was tough or owned the bar but because they enjoyed his company and West Portal was like an extended family. The more time I spent talking to him, the more interesting he was, he loved to talk and he loved to laugh. There are so many stories from Kilgariff and Benny Louhon of the trips they took and his latest adventures with Woody, Joel, Chingo, Lenny, and Mike Murray telling what it was like to be Neils friend. Ask Big Sully, Jimmy Weese or Billy Breslin Im sure you will hear, if Neil were your friend, people better being saying nice things about you around him. I dont believe Neil wanted many people to know The Real Neil but they found out anyway.
When Neil met Lois, I think his life as a domestic man was finally settled into and his social grace was more apparent. Whether at the horse races or cooking in the back yard, Neil and Lois were partners and inseparable, a perfect match and she was there for him, in every way, right to the end. Neil remained in touch with his close friends but he moved away from West Portal and was more at ease, at home in his Hawaiian shirt, than out and about, just ask Bob Kim or Leal Ugrin about Neil at home. Every year at the banquet, for the Rocky Moon Golf Tourney, I would drop by Neils table to say hello and after a couple of hours Lois had to be asking herself, doesnt this guy have anybody else to talk to? I just loved talking to Neil. The memory that stands out in my mind and is most pronounced, is Neil at his sons funeral. He was devastated and he didnt care who knew it, he seemed stronger at that moment, in my eyes, then ever before. We are all going to miss Neil tremendously, the Rocky Moon and our world will never be the same without him, and we will forever remember how warm and human Neil could be. He was a fireman, a husband to Lois, a father, a special friend, and a big brother to Kevin. Good bye Neil, we love you, your memory will be with us, always.