Obituary for Kenneth Jack Neil Jr.
Life Sketch of Kenneth Jack Neil Jr.
Kenneth Jack Neil Jr. (Ken or Kenny) was born May 17, 1956 in Provo, Utah, the first of 5 children born to Kenneth Jack Neil Sr. and Helen Marie Johnson. His father left school (BYU) to rejoin the Air Force in order to support his family, and for most of Ken’s life he was raised moving from place to place, depending on where his father was stationed: Oregon, Canada, Florida, Hawaii, Texas, Alaska, California and finally Colorado, before his dad finally retired from the Air Force and moved the family to Utah, where Ken attended high school first in Lehi and then in Pleasant Grove, finally graduating from Pleasant Grove High School in 1975.
When Ken was in 2nd and 3rd grade his mother took him and his younger siblings to Mexico to live with her parents in Colonia Juarez, (otherwise known as the Mormon Colonies), while his father was assigned to a remote location in Alaska for 18 months. This time period was one of the highlights of his young life, where he enjoyed the supportive environment of his grandparents and learned a little about his grandfather’s work growing peach orchards, and where he came to know and enjoy his many cousins. Of everywhere he lived, however, Colorado appealed to Ken most, and later in life he would make it his permanent home.
One of the memorable times of his life was the summer he spent during high school in Ashton, Idaho with his Egbert cousins moving watering pipe in the potato fields. He came back from that summer well-muscled, tan and shaped by the experience of being with a warm, caring family.
After Ken graduated from high school he served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His Patriarchal blessing had given Ken an unusual promise: He would be allowed to serve in the location of his choice. True to his blessing, Ken was called to serve for two years in his favorite place—the Denver, Colorado area! After his mission he returned home, married soon thereafter but was later divorced, whereupon he entered the Trade Tech in Provo Utah to study carpentry. After working several jobs in the Utah area Ken moved to Denver, Colorado where after many years he met a single woman in his church named Barbara Jeanne Merrell, and they began to enjoy dinners and nights out together. In 1999 on July 20, Ken and Barbara married at the Denver City County Building, and on November 11, 2001 they were sealed in the Denver Temple for time and all eternity.
Since the day they were married, Barbara has been the center of Ken’s life As Barbara later developed more health problems, Ken’s life became focused on her care, helping to make sure Barbara followed doctor’s orders. When Ken learned that knitting and crocheting had been given to Barbara as therapy, he made sure she always had yarn on hand, going out if necessary to buy it. His pleasures in life were simple ones—listening to his favorite music (like Glen Campbell and The Carpenters), watching old favorites on TV (like Gunsmoke, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie), and enjoying eating out with Barbara when they could. Attending church was an important part of Ken and Barbara’s life up to the end, and Ken and Barbara attended church whenever they could. Through the kindness of fellow ward members he and Barbara were able to attend fairly regularly even though they had no car to drive.
There was always a little kid inside of Ken, one who loved Christmas and the whole Christmas season, with the music, lights and decorations. Giving and shopping for gifts was a particular pleasure for Ken. One year when he was still a bachelor, Ken made the trip to Chicago laden with gifts for his niece and nephews that he purchased with his meager earnings at a drug store. He had the satisfaction of seeing those children absolutely thrilled with his gifts, and they remember that Christmas and Uncle Kenny’s gifts still after these many years. It seems fitting somehow that Ken’s passing was in the Christmas season. His inner child must be filled with delight at the wonder of Christmas on the other side of the veil, shared with loved ones who have preceded him in death, and who have been waiting with joy for his return!
On Saturday, December 9, 2017, Ken passed away peacefully where he and Barbara resided at The Retreat at Highlands in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.