Darrington father, husband remembered for his kind spirit

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on March 27, 2014 at 11:12 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 27 at 11:19 PM

DARRINGTON, Wash. -- Steve Neal is one of the few Oso landslide victims that did not live on Steelhead Drive.  The Darrington man worked as a plumber, and was there to repair a hot water heater. Family members say his body was found in the debris on Wednesday.

His daughter, Caroline Neal, says they were told the house he was working on was likely one of the first hit, and that he died on impact.

"With how fast it moved, and the force of it, he probably never knew there was a slide, and wouldn't have had time to even be aware of what was going on," said Caroline.  "It was quick and he didn't suffer, and that's a huge relief for my family."

Neal leaves behind a wife, three kids, and six grandchildren.

"He was always there for me.  He was always there for everyone," said Caroline. "He was a wonderful grandfather."

On Saturday morning, he woke up and told his wife he had to go to Oso for a quick plumbing job.

"He kissed her goodbye, and she said well I thought you were going to just come and make coffee and come back to bed and can't you just do it on Monday?"  said Caroline.  "And he said, that lady is without water, she's going to be without water all weekend.  I'm just going to go over there and take care of it and I'll be back."

That home belonged to Amanda Lennick, who had very recently moved to the neighborhood.  She has not yet been found.

Neal never got the chance to kiss his wife again, or play with his grandchildren.  Caroline says telling them was the hardest part.

"You know, I told them there had been an accident, that Poppa was there doing a plumbing job, and that he died," she said.  "His body died and he went up to heaven, and now he's watching over all of us and he loved them very much, and that he's always going to be watching after you."

It is a conversation that is now happening in homes and families all over Arlington and Darrington.

A fund has been set up at Coastal Community Bank in Darrington, to help Steve's wife, Brenda Neal.  Donations can be made at any bank branch.  

Caroline says her parents fell in love when her mother was just seventeen years old

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