Neill was with us for a short time, but left his mark. And not just bowls of ice cream! Neill was a teacher, a school principal, an actor, a storyteller and a spiritual seeker. We all got used to the latest books he would discover in the library or bookstore. He loved to explore the edges of human consciousness and theories of the soul, the spirit, the mind and body. Some would roll their eyes, but his sincerity was rather contagious sometimes.
He never stopped talking about his family, how proud he was of them and how surprised “they turned out so well; they sure didn’t get it from ME!”
He made a path through downtown and no doubt left smiles wherever he went. We know he carried dog treats in his pockets to exchange for licks in the park. He always enjoyed seeing us re-fill the seed in the birdfeeder. He noticed our bird residents. He nudged us to get a house-cat or other pet, since “we all need the touch of companionship.” He liked sweeping the back deck and joked that the redwood never stopped giving him work to do.
A few months ago Neill celebrated his 90th birthday. Then, in recent days, Neill discovered he had pancreatic cancer. He knew he didn’t have long so he spoke of his decision to go into hospice. He deteriorated quickly while keeping his good sense of humor. His family was close and made his transition to hospice gentle and meaningful.
Some of us had the chance to say a last goodbye. Neill had a warm and firm handshake for me. I asked him, “Neill, how will Tam House get along without you?” He smiled and said, “You’ll get by; you’ll get by.”
The morning after he left for hospice, Neill died peacefully in his sleep.
He will be deeply missed by his beloved family of course, but also by his housemates, the staff and the board, as well as by the many people he touched in San Anselmo and beyond. The storyteller has now become our story to remember, and tell.