Neal Wade Smith was a remarkable young man who‚ in his too short 46 years‚ accomplished most of his own dreams and helped many more reach theirs. It is hard to put into a few words how much he meant to his family and friends and all those who had the privilege of working with him. Something will always be left out.
Born in Texas and raised in Wichita‚ Kansas‚ Neal was the eldest son of Donna and Dexter Stephens‚ big brother to Noel and Nathan‚ beloved husband of Penny‚ and devoted‚ proud daddy to Nicholas and Natalie. Those simple descriptions-son‚ brother‚ husband‚ father-don’t begin to capture the depth of what he brought to each of those roles in life.
Throughout his life he expressed in deeds and words the lessons he learned from his mother and father-lessons about loyalty‚ faithfulness‚ fairness‚ steadfastness‚ devotion and‚ most of all‚ love.
He took those lessons with him as he went out into the world. As so many young men do‚ he joined the service‚ entering the Navy and using his skill in photography to chronicle his fellow servicemen and women and the great ships they sailed upon. He received an honorable discharge after three years due to medical issues.
With veteran’s benefits‚ he attended Kansas State University and Wichita State University. He took his education into the workplace‚ finding his forte in retail management. His work finally took him and the family to Humble‚ Texas‚ first with Sprint and then Zales‚ where he quickly turned around struggling stores using a hands-on approach. Over and over he was told how much his consistent dedication to the people he worked with inspired them to excel and meet goals they thought were out of reach.
Neal’s business success was just a prelude to what became his true passion-being a fireman. The seed was planted when daughter Natalie‚ then in preschool‚ came home talking about the visit from the AVFD. He went on to join the fire department from there.
Within the next four years‚ he went from civilian to firefighter board member to lieutenant to captain at the Atascocita Volunteer Fire Department. Some of his achievements include AVFD’s Firefighter and Officer of the Year‚ plus Fire Fighter of the Year for Lake Houston Chamber of Commerce and Harris County Fire Fighters Association. Many would tell you his greatest achievements were the personal ones as he inspired and encouraged everyone he met.
He went to his final call doing what he loved. His greatest legacy though is truly his two precious children‚ Nicholas and Natalie‚ and his beloved Penny. They are shining reflections of the man Neal Wade Smith was to all of us.