Paul's Story

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Services to honor and celebrate the life of Paul Neely will be 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 at the First United Methodist Church of Claremore. Entombment will follow in Oakhaven Memorial Gardens. Family will receive friends for visitation 5-7 p.m. Tuesday at Rice Funeral Service.
Mr. Neely passed away Thursday at his Claremore home. He was 90.
Born Dec. 18, 1925 in Cleveland, Okla., Paul Edmond Neely was the son of Albert Franklin and Pearl Edith (Hatfield) Neely. He was reared and educated in his birth community where he served as President of his 1943 Senior Class. Following high school graduation, he enrolled in then Oklahoma A&M where he paid $21.00/month for room and board to the Campus Fire Station.
To this end, he not only received lodging, but he also received one credit hour for his fireman training. After completing one semester, as much of the male student body had chosen, this once voted 'Most Bashful Boy' traded any reservation or act of timidity in for adventure and heroism as he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was sent to radio school to become a high speed radio operator and was stationed in Naples, Italy where he reported to the Army Airways Communications System. He was honorably discharged on July 1, 1946 and returned to Oklahoma State University where he completed his degree in business under the G.I. Bill.
Upon visiting his hometown of Cleveland, Paul was set up on a blind date with a cute little high school girl named Jonnie Mae Sanders whose dad happened to own the movie theater. The couple's first date consisted of driving around town, stopping for a cheeseburger and lastly catching a movie.
Paul bought the cheeseburgers, but when it came time to go to the show Jonnie made Paul pay to get into the movies — no freebies! This act would not dishearten young Paul as he continued to pursue Jonnie. In fact, it was after only a couple of years of courting that he proposed and it was in June of 1949 that the couple married in a Yale, Oklahoma wedding ceremony.
A short time after their marriage, Paul completed his education at OSU and the couple made their first home in Drumright where he began his career in insurance sales. Just two years later, in 1951, he relocated his family to Claremore where he established his own agency, Neely Insurance Agency, Inc. A true blessing, that same year was the birth of the Financial Responsibility Act, requiring all motorists be insured. It was during those days, however, that an automobile liability policy could be purchased for about $8.00/annually.
In addition to his involvement with the insurance agency through the years, Paul was also a co-owner and co-developer of the Ne-Mar Shopping Center in Claremore along with other businesses and investments including a co-founder of 1st Bank in 1976. Paul served as State President of the Professional Insurance Agents Association of Oklahoma in 1962 and served three years as a National Director for the Oklahoma Professional Insurance Agents Association from 1963 to 1966.
A man who was also steeped in community and in service, Paul received the Claremore "Citizen of the Year Award" in 1980. He was awarded Rogers County's "Most Progressive Citizen" in 1993.
Founding President of Rogers State University's Foundation, he served three years as President. He also served as Commander of Claremore's VFW and was Past President of the Jaycees, the Claremore Chamber of Commerce, Claremore Ambassadors, Claremore Tourist Association, Rotary Club and the Claremore Industrial and Redevelopment Authority.
One who truly bled orange and black, Paul also served as President of the Rogers County OSU Alumni Association. He received the OSU Alumni Service Award in 1993 and was inducted into the OSU Alumni Hall of Fame in 2008.
What brought Paul more joy than anything was being a devoted husband, father and 'Gramps'. He was so proud of not only his family's involvement in their education and activities at Oklahoma State, but he was most proud of the productive citizens and loving, caring and genuine people that they have become.
The many talents, relationships and investments exuded throughout the rich life of Paul Neely will now be handed down to those family members who survive. They are: his wife of 67 years, Jonnie Neely of the home; two children: Stephen "Steve" Neely and wife, Terrie and Sherry Barstow and husband Ed all of Claremore; four grandchildren: Ginger Kollmann of Tulsa, Crystle Keeney of Carrolton, Texas, Ryan Neely of Claremore and Kellie Ball of Tulsa; 11 great-grandchildren: Grant, Reed, Neely, Elliott, Emmalyn, Jackson, Knox, Westin, Wyatt, Brian and Brandon; three siblings: John Neely, Jimmie Neely and Barbara Randall all of Tulsa. He is also survived by a step-granddaughter, Belinda Ripoll and two step-grandchildren: Clay and Cody Ripoll.
If there are those who wish to honor Paul with a memorial gift, they may choose to direct their gift to either First United Methodist Church, 1615 North Highway 88, Claremore, OK 74017 or OSU Alumni Association, 201 ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center, Stillwater, OK 74078.
Published on November 26, 2016
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