Douglas Ray Neal, 76, of Sioux City, passed away Monday, June 3, 2019, with the love of his family and friends by his side.
He was born to parents James T. Neal and Ruby Sandifer Neal on Nov. 21, 1942, in Natchitoches, La., at their home. His grandmother Sandifer was the midwife delivering him.
He married Patricia C. Van Dyke, the love of his life, in 1963. She passed away in 2005.
Douglas was a smart, funny and incredibly resourceful person. He started working at the age of 12 at the Louisiana fairgrounds. He joined the U.S. Army at the age of 17. He served as a French horn player for the 25th Infantry Division (Tropic Lightning) Band in Hawaii, where he was also invited to become a member of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra.
He taught music at various schools and in 1969 volunteered to be the first white music teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in Caddo Parish when schools were being integrated in the South.
After his tenure as a music teacher, he became a self-taught piano technician. He tuned pianos for the band Queen, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Henry Mancini, Rudolf Firkusny, John-Bernard Pommier and was the tour piano technician for Misha Dichter four times. He taught piano technology at Western Iowa Tech Community College for 14 years. He made another self-taught career change to round up his working years, repairing stringed instruments at Ray’s Mid-Bell Music until he retired.
He is survived by son, John Neal and wife, Anne of Aurora, Maine; daughter, Catherine Saulsbury and husband, Pat of Sioux City; daughter, Jennifer Brown and husband, Jason of Brooklyn, New York; as well as 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Gospel Mission of Sioux City, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 712-255-1769.