Those were the words of Frank New in his eulogy at the Don Neu memorial service. Over 200 of Don’s family and friends met on Cottonwood’s court one November 19 to share their personal memories of Don and his many accomplishments.
Thanks to the vocals of Mary Burke, there were few dry eyes when Don’s sons, Kendall and Jeffry, took the podium to tell of a Don Neu that the rest of us could not have known: the loving father who devoted himself to his family, to their well-being, and to ensuring that his children never lacked for joy in their life. “We learned about the importance of having fun,” said Jeffrey, “and he taught us to help others, something he modeled every day of his life.” Both boys, now adults, spoke of the pride they have in their father and in his many achievements.
Friends shared stories of a shy Don Neu, a man of few words but of many actions. A man who drew children to him simply by entering a room. A man with a dry sense of humor who could tease others into making wiser tennis choices. “You can play a lobbing game if you want,” he would say to students, ‘but don’t wait by the phone for tennis partners to call.”
Don Neu could build or repair anything. Jim Miller called him the ‘duct tape bandit,’ a shadowy figure, marauding through the community looking for broken things and then repairing them with surgical skill. It is true that, were it not for Don, tennis balls would be bouncing under fences onto roads and players’ benches, would not have shelters to block the sun between games, only a few of his many contributions. The Cottonwood Tennis Club would certainly be missing a significant number of its over 300 members, many of whom entered the club after taking Don’s free weekly tennis clinics where they were introduced to the fun of playing tennis.
A few speakers pointed to his integrity and his generous spirit. Others, his patience. Some remembered his incorrigible love of chocolate. Everyone applauded a lifetime full of exceptional athletic feats. Certainly, a man much admired by his fellow competitors; one who could lose with as much grace as he could win.
As the afternoon drew to a close, Sandy Neu and her family were presented with a gift from Betty Dunn – three quilts made from Don’s vast collection of favorite t-shirts. Finally, the host, Steve Nolan, and Kelz Kelzenberg unveiled a plaque that will become an integral part of the Cottonwood tennis facility. Frank New was right – a good man is gone. He will be missed by his family and his many friends.