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Neal A. Johnson, 101, of Kansas City, Missouri passed away on December 1, 2019 at the Kingswood Senior Living Community. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, January 4 at 11 a.m., at the John Knox Presbyterian Kirk of Kansas City, 11430 Wornall Road, Kansas City, MO, 64114.
All of his life, Neal was known and admired as a man of letters, skilled in the use of the written and spoken word to inform, rouse and enlighten, as well as to entertain and delight. His journalist pen was succinct and clear; his wit - dry, quick and smart; his voice - assured, honest and trustworthy. He used these strengths in the service of his country, its government, its citizens, and his church - as a leader, a communicator, and as a seeker of truth.
Neal was born in Neosho in 1918 to Andrew and Lenora Johnson. His father, Andrew, died in the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918, when Neal was 6 months old. Years later, Neals mother married Rex Leckie and Neal soon had a baby sister, Barbara Lou (Meeds). He graduated from Joplin High School in 1936, and from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1940, and having wooed and won the lovely Evelyn Goslin of Columbia (whom he nicknamed Lynn) in 1939, he began his career as a news reporter. It was almost immediately interrupted by the war in Europe. Throughout both high school and college, Neal participated in ROTC training and graduated college a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps Reserves. He was called to active duty prior to December 7, 1941 and quickly rose to the rank of Captain. He was on active duty for four years during WWII. In October 1943, now Captain Johnson deployed overseas to serve in England, France, Netherlands, and Germany for the next two years with the Ninth Air Force. He was awarded three battle stars. He was about to be shipped to the Pacific when the war there ended.
Returning from the war, he re-embarked on his career as a reporter and broadcaster. He and his wife welcomed daughter Karen into the world in 1946. After spending time at WMBH Radio in Joplin and KWOS in Jefferson City, his job path led him to Kansas City where, in 1946, he went to work for KMBC Radio and, later, TV for the next ten years. While at KMBC, Neal was asked to meet every night after work with H. Roe Bartle and his cohorts in a room at the Pickwick Hotel during Bartles successful campaign for Mayor of Kansas City. Bartle chose Neal to write the press releases regarding Bartles campaign proposals that would be sent to the newspapers, radio and TV stations each day.
In 1950, son Gary Neal Johnson was born and the family was complete. Like his father, Gary graduated from MUs School of Journalism but found, instead, a successful life in the theater.
In 1956, Neal left KMBC for the job of Regional Director of the Office of Information for the U.S. Department of Labor. He would serve as the voice of the DOL for the central region of the United States. This he did for the next 20 years. A few years after taking this job, Neal was surprised to learn that his appointment was a direct result of a recommendation by Roe Bartle, himself.
In every aspect of his life, Neal earned the respect, the admiration and often the friendship of so many of those he met on his daily path, or in his various travels, duties and activities. As a Shriner, he enjoyed driving children to the Shriners Hospital in St. Louis. Long an amateur radio operator, he joined the Shriners Ham Radio Club. He was a member of the National Press Club, an elder for two Presbyterian churches in his lifetime, and preached on more than one occasion. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves in which he served for 40 years.
In the early 1950s, his family joined the Covenant Presbyterian Church where close, lifelong friendships were formed with seven other families, forming what was nicknamed, "The Gang," around whom his social life would revolve for the next 60 years. In the early 60s, "The Gang" transferred to the John Knox Presbyterian Kirk. In 1978, Neal and Lynn retired to a life of leisure and travel, often with the Santa Fe Scouts camping group of which they were founding members, or wintering in Surprise, AZ or the like. Lynn died at the age of 94 in 2012. In 2013, Neal moved to the Kingswood Senior Living Community where, in 2014, he won the 1st Annual Kingswood Spelling Bee against some stiff competition. He was 96 at the time. As for "The Gang," he was the last survivor.
As can be said of many men and women, it can be said of Neal, as well that he never met a stranger. We were all of one stripe to him, all in the same boat. All. Travelers here for a time, walking the same path, striving to get by with as much dignity and humor as we can muster.
His wife, Evelyn, and his sister, Barbara Lou Meeds, preceded him in death. Surviving are daughter Karen L. Hanover (Mike), son Gary Neal Johnson (Lynne Beachner), grandsons Kurt Hanover (Mary), Erich Hanover, Drew Johnson, Ben Johnson, and great-grand daughters, Kassidy and McKenna. The family appreciates the care and affection Neal received from the staff at Kingswood. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to John Knox Presbyterian Kirk or The Kingswood Foundation. Condolences may be left at www.MuehlebachChapel.com
Memorial Service John Knox Presbyterian Kirk
Saturday, January 04, 2020
11430 Wornall RoadKansas City, Missouri 64114
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