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Five Things I Remember About Cheerio Neal

Today Westford Patch remembers a good friend and long time contributor who passed away on this week.

 

Hello,

Today I want to help remember the life of a man who was beloved by countless people in the town of Westford and was a frequent contributor and good friend to Westford Patch: Victor "Cheerio" Neal.

In the spirit of our daily Five Things column, here are five memories that stick out for me from the time I, Westford Patch editor Andrew Sylvia, remember about Cheerio.

#1. I met Cheerio in Lexington at a . He had a Canon EOS 50D with a 300mm lens and he told me that he had gotten it from a $1,400 insurance payment he receieved back during the ice storm. Of course, the insurance policy wasn't on another camera, Cheerio just felt like getting a camera with the money he got back from his policy. 

Westford Academy didn't win that game, I had to get a little bit more creative for my pictures than Cheerio did since I only had a Nikon D4100 with a 200mm and a 4.5/f, but I still remember his were better than mine and I was inspired to try and improve my skills behind a camera.

After that game, and after hearing all kinds of great things about his photography from other people, I e-mailed him to see if I could pay him for pictures he had taken from the 2011 Last Night event, and pay him for future coverage of games where he would be taking photos.

To this day, I still remember the e-mail with his answer. All it said was.... "NO!!!!!!!!!" Not sure if I had offended him, but I was definitely taken aback. I certainly hoped I didn't, he seemed like a nice guy and was a great photographer.

#2. Over time, he kept on seeing me at Westford Academy sporting events, and by around the time were well on their way to a state title.

He said he had seen some of my photos, and thought they were pretty good. He apologized for his e-mail and said I could have any photos from his SmugMug account. Before too long, he'd be continually asking why I wasn't using more of his photos, and to be honest, he was just too prolific for me to keep up with.

#3. Cheerio took all these photos of Westford Academy sporting events due in large part to the fact that he was the bus driver for the girls sports teams.

However, whenever there wasn't an away game, he'd often be taking pictures at home games, for boys and girls' sports. Every single Westford Academy athlete knew his name. I would not be surprised if every fan in attendance at just about every Westford game knew his name.

He seemed to lift the spirts of the student athletes, regardless of what team they were on.

#4. However, he took loved to take photos of things other than sports as well. In fact, the last time I saw him, he was waiting with his grandkids

Around that time, he was having some issues with his SmugMug account, and I volunteered to go over to his house and try and help him out, even though I knew very little about SmugMug itself.

For anyone else, I probably wouldn't have helped, but Cheerio's work saved me ... ... , and he did so much to help me become a part of Westford that I was glad to help.

Of course, I told him he could always put his pictures directly on Patch if he wanted, but that he was so valuable as a friend and colleague that even if he didn't, I would be honored if I could share his pictures with the world.

#5. Cheerio died on this week. He was 76 years old. Before he retired, he worked for Wang Laboratories and raised three children: Victor Jr., Patricia and Michelle. He had five grandchildren and one surviving brother.

Visiting hours for him will be held at from 3 to 7 p.m. on Friday, and he will be put to rest at St. Catherine's Cemetary, following an 11 a.m. service at St. Catherine's Rectory.

Memorials may be made in his name, Victor "Cheerio" Neal, to Westford Academy Athletic Boosters, P.O. Box 481, Westford, MA 01886.

Lori September 06, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Wake is at St. Catherine's Church on Friday from 3-7.
Kathy Mancini September 06, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Cheerio was above all a gentleman. He connected with children, young adults and "older" adults as well. His smile and kindness will be missed but remembered for a long time. My prayers go out to his family- all of Westford!
Liz Benstead September 07, 2012 at 12:10 PM
I met Cherrio on a field trip, as I am teacher at Blanchard. As always he had his camera ready. I noticed that his camera strap said "Wang". I asked him if he had ever worked at Wang as my dad started with Dr. Wang when he was forming the company. Cherrio asked me my last name, and before I could say my first name, he said, "Your're Elizabeth Benstead.....Aubrey's daughter?". Imagine my surprise !!! Come to find out, Cherrio and my dad were one of the first 35 - 40 people to be hired by Dr. Wang (as managers). From that day, Cherrio and I became fast friends. Every time Cheerio would read or hear about me and Blanchard's Student Council, he would make a point to find me at school and give me a hug and tell me how proud my dad would be if he were still with us. CHEERIO YOU WILL BE GREATLY MISSED !! Your infectious smile and laugh could turn any "frown upside down". You are now laughing, smiling with the angels in heaven. God Bless.
Tom Kane September 07, 2012 at 02:05 PM
It's very sad to hear the news of Vic's passing. I first met him as a bus driver during my childhood 20 years ago. Over the years, I had the pleasure of running into him at many community events and WA games. He was always there to capture and share so many great moments for the people of Westford. His warm spirit and presence will be greatly missed in our town.

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