Just over a year after his wife passed away, Greenfield has lost one its native sons and a quiet benefactor. Lowell McNeil died Tuesday. He was 82.
“He was very community oriented,” said Greenfield resident Larry Chapman, who had his insurance with the Sitterle Insurance Company that McNeil worked at and owned for 50 years. “We have this SPARK creative art free children’s Christmas workshop coming up and I called and asked Lowell if he would sponsor it. Without a hesitation he wrote a check with no questions asked, and that’s not the first time he did that.”
Lowell and his wife Sandra, who passed away on Nov. 14, 2014, were both McClain High School graduates and championed untold causes in Greenfield.
“Sandra might have been the face, but Lowell was just as kind-hearted as could be. And he was a big Ohio State fan,” Greenfield Rotary Club member Chuck Miller said.
Lowell McNeil was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Greenfield, where he was a choir member and had held many different positions. He was a charter member of Greenfield Area Life Squad, a member of the Greenfield Lions Club and Masonic lodge, an avid golfer, longtime supporter of the theater, a 1950 graduate of Edward Lee McClain High School and a graduate of The Ohio State University.
Greenfield City Manager Ron Coffey said he knew McNeil practically his whole life and that when he was a little boy, McNeil taught him how to catch a ball.
“I thought, how cool, I can catch a ball. That’s a pretty big thing for a boy,” Coffey said. “That’s just what kind of gentle man he was. In all the years I knew him I don’t believe I ever saw him mad or heard anyone speak ill of him. He was kind of a behind the scenes guy who got things done in Greenfield.”
Sara Watts, a secretary at the First Presbyterian Church in Greenfield, said McNeil had attended the church since he was a teenager and had been a member there since 1967. She said he became an ordained elder in 1970, was a Session member, and still has children and grandchildren that go to church there.
“He was a great person. He was kind and helpful to everybody,” said Watts, a member of the church for more than 60 years. “He always had a real good attitude about everything. I think he was a real special person.”
Chapman said he could not remember exactly how he came to know the McNeils, but that it was likely because he was a teacher and owned a bicycle shop.
“I just know Lowell was an intelligent, hardworking character with a passion for golf and the theater,” Chapman said. “He was just a helluva nice guy and as good of a father and grandfather as I’ve known. He and his wife both were just top-notch characters.”
Born and raised in Greenfield, Lowell married Sandra in 1955 and graduated from Ohio State with a business administration degree in 1959. While pursuing his college degree he worked for the Buckeye Union Insurance Agency, providing support and research for the company’s out-of-state underwriters and adjusters. After graduation his first job was in the paper merchant business rather than insurance, and he stayed five years before joining a Columbus insurance agency.
“I’d only been there a short time when an old friend, Carl Sitterle, who taught bookkeeping and had been my teacher, called and asked if I would come help him out,” McNeil told The Times-Gazette in 2011. “I went to work for him in 1965 and worked for him until 1985 when I bought the business from him. Carl was a nice man, a former coach, and well respected in the community. It was a great opportunity for me and even though I’ve owned the business for 26 years, that’s why we’re still Sitterle Insurance. Carl died in 1991, but I wouldn’t change the name of the company for anything.”
Coffey called McNeil a remarkable man, good friend to many, always pleasant, polite, and a gentleman. He also said McNeil’s insurance agency was always there for its clients.
“He was one of those real steady guys you knew you could always count on,” Coffey said. “If he told you he’d do something, you didn’t need a document to back it up. You just knew he would do it.”
McNeil is survived by five children, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. The Murray-Fettro Funeral Home is handling funeral arrangements. For the full obituary see page 2.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.