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Returning God's Gifts - Chuck Neary lived the spirit of stewardship

Chuck Neary lived the spirit of stewardship

By Tim McNeil
Returning God's Gifts

Charles "Chuck" Neary was known for many things. He had a great personality. He was a terrific salesman. He was self-giving. He had unwavering passion for his family and uncompromising sympathy for those people less fortunate than him. But very few people were aware that Chuck was perhaps the world's worst neighborhood barber.

Chuck wasn't really a barber. He was an insurance and real estate executive. But that didn't stop him from giving haircuts to kids living in the Dundee neighborhood.

Anyone who ever received a haircut from Chuck had cause to sprint out of his Davenport Street home, crying and screaming foul after seeing his handiwork in the mirror. That's because he relied on a cereal bowl as an aid, placing it over the top of his young client's head and trimming around its edges. The result was something very similar to today's fashionable bowl cut, only a bit more uneven and a lot less fashionable.

Chuck's limited skills never deterred youngsters from coming back. On the contrary, they couldn't wait to return and be on the receiving end of his good humor and gentle nature. Chuck, who never charged for his services, gave his young clients a quarter on every visit and sent them off with the instructions, "Buy yourself some bubble gum at the drugstore. And get your sister a piece."

Chuck Neary, 79, died Jan. 7 at a local hospital from a blood clot. He left a legacy of what it means to be a disciple of Christ and steward of His many gifts.

I can't say for sure if Chuck ever gave someone the shirt off his back, even though I know he would, but I do know he gave a neighbor the shoes off his feet.

Long ago, when a neighbor up the street went into child labor, she telephoned Chuck and Ellen Neary, his wife of 55 years, and asked if they would watch over the couple's 11 children while they went to the hospital to give birth to their 12th child. Chuck and Ellen arrived moments later. The always patient Chuck watched the father nervously case the house for his shoes while his wife sat on the couch, fighting off labor pains. When Chuck couldn't take it any longer, he shouted to the father, "For goodness sakes, Jim, take mine; your wife's about to give birth." Chuck then bent down, removed his shoes, handed them to the father and pushed him out the door.

Chuck believed that there could be world peace if people were kind to one another. Believing it wasn't enough; he lived every day this way.

Back in the days when people were more trustworthy, Chuck would give rides to hitchhikers. If he spotted someone at a bus stop in the dead of winter or in the scorching July heat, he'd roll down his window and ask: "Can I give you a lift?"

During the height of the Iran hostage crisis, Chuck and Ellen befriended an Iranian immigrant living in Omaha. The immigrant lived with the Nearys for a few months, until she was more self-sufficient.

Chuck also volunteered regularly at St. Margaret Mary Parish, and he was the recipient of the Nebraska Hospice Volunteer of the Year Award. His good deeds seemed endless.

During the time between his death and his final laying to rest, Chuck's six children talked frequently about these deeds.

At his funeral a family member asked the standing-room-only crowd to "do something good for someone whenever you think of Chuck Neary."

Chuck Neary was filled with Jesus' spirit. There's no other way to explain why kids kept going back for one of his bad haircuts.

Tim McNeil is on the staff of the archdiocese's Stewardship and Development Office.

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