DARRINGTON — Stephen A. Neal was a devoted husband, father and grandfather who moved to Darrington and came to love the mountain town.
Neal, 55, died March 22 in the Oso mudslide. He and his friend Bill Welsh were installing a water heater in the home of Amanda Lennick on Steelhead Drive when the slide hit.
Neal was born Sept. 29, 1958, in Pittsburgh, Pa. Neal moved with his family to Whidbey Island, where he attended the former Langley High School (now South Whidbey High School).
He met his wife, Brenda, in Seattle, and shortly after their marriage he moved to Darrington to raise a family.
“He was a very strong family man, that was his main drive,” said his daughter-in-law, Jessica Neal.
Stephen and Brenda were married for more than 30 years and were very close.
“They were a very inspirational relationship to me. They showed a lot of love and it was beautiful,” she said.
Stephen Neal ran his own plumbing business, and that was what took him out to Oso with his friend to work on the house there.
“They worked together frequently and helped each other out with jobs,” Jessica Neal said.
But more than anything else, he was devoted to his family: “Barbecues, camping, having the grandkids over and going to catch frogs and salamanders with them,” Jessica Neal said.
He and Brenda had three children, plus four grandchildren who just worshipped him and to whom he loved to tell stories, she said.
“He would make them up: nature stories, ghost tales, things to get them riled up. He had a great imagination,” she said.
He also volunteered with the local Boy Scout troop when his son was in the Scouts, and he would often help out around town with plumbing work.
“This community meant a lot to him,” Jessica Neal said.
Neal is survived by his wife, Brenda, and three children: daughter Caroline Neal, 32, of Arlington, son Ryan Neal, 29, and his wife, Jessica, of Marysville, and daughter Sara Neal, 25, of Darrington. He also had four grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at noon Saturday, April 26, at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church, 1272 Highway 530, Darrington. Vistors are welcome to attend and pay their respects.
Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; firstname.lastname@example.org.