Charles Franklin Neal

Charles Franklin Neal

Charlie, 83, passed away on March 28, 2015, peacefully at his home in Clinton after a long battle with cancer.

He was born in San Antonio, Texas on Oct. 19, 1931. His father was a prominent veterinarian and his mother was a school teacher. His dream since the age of 12 was to become a forest ranger in Montana. He postponed his forestry pursuit to serve his country during the Korean War in the United States Air Force, where he served on a B-36 squadron as a mechanic. He later returned to his studies in forestry at Arkansas A&M and graduated with a forestry degree in 1960. He moved to Hamilton, Mont., that year and began his long forestry career in the Bitterroot National Forest, assigned to the Darby Ranger District, where he met and married his wife Linda of 52 years in 1963.

He often reminisced about battling the notable Sleeping Child fire, one of the biggest forest fires in Montana history. He later was assigned to the Custer National Forest in Ashland, Mont. His warm-hearted nature and ability to get along with everyone he met earned him a new position as a liaison officer between the Forest Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs fire crews. He also worked in Missoula, Mont., and Butte, Mont., and later transferred to Seattle, where he retired from the Forest Service as a land specialist for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in 1987. After retiring from the Forest Service, Charlie worked on the Snohomish County Rails to Trails program.

Charlie loved skiing and was instrumental in helping form the Discovery Basin ski area in Philipsburg, Mont., where they made him a lifetime member of the Ski Patrol.

He will long be remembered by everyone as the gentle, happy, kind-hearted soul who loved life and everyone he met.

He is survived by his wife, Linda; son Doug and his wife Monique; son Darrin and his wife Heather; daughter Amy and her husband Miles; grandsons Christopher, Alex and Andrew; granddaughter, Rebekah; sister, Mary Darby, and brother, Dan Neal, both residents of Dallas.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, April 17, at St. Hubert Catholic Church in Langley.