Obituary: John James Neary
October 11, 2014
John James Neary died unexpectedly, peacefully sleeping, during the early morning hours of October 4, 2014, in the home he loved in Tahoe City. He was born in San Francisco on November 7, 1947 to the late Eva Viola & John (Jack) James Neary. John was the husband of Patricia Helen Neary, his loving and devoted wife of 47 years, who survives him. John and Pat were childhood friends, first meeting as 13-year-olds while walking to Frank's Pizzeria in Millbrae. John was the proud father of Jason (46) and Sean (43).
Mr. Neary was a highly respected, naturally gifted, school teacher. He began his teaching career at Pleasant Hill High School in 1972 before turning his prodigious energies towards nearby College Park High School from 1974 to 1989. John was a committed football, wrestling, girls soccer and girls softball coach.
He directed plays, attended countless school dances, taught hundreds of students to drive, counseled those in crisis, and selflessly fathered all who sought the warmth of his embrace. Jason and Sean both graduated from College Park. John, a public speaker of great prowess, delivered the commencement address the year Sean graduated.
In 1989 John refocused his passion for education — moving out of his classroom and into school administration. He served Clayton Valley High School as Assistant Principal from 1989 to 1991, North Tahoe High School between 1991 and 1993, then next as Principal at North Tahoe Middle School from 1993-1998. John returned to Clayton Valley High School as Principal from 1998 to 2005.
John retired in 2005, spending his days on and around his beloved Lake Tahoe. He played with dogs, boated with his children and wife, hosted countless friends & family, and enjoyed this period of rest and reflection. Missing the youngsters, and knowing that his candle still burned brightly, he returned to education as Principal of Truckee High School in 2011 and 2012 , and then as Athletic Director at North Tahoe High School in 2013 and 2014.
He was always a favorite of the students and staff as he was deeply compassionate, approachable, non-judgmental and always available to support a student or adult in need.
John was an incredibly passionate man who positively impacted the lives of thousands of young people in the bay area and North Lake Tahoe. His greatest loves were his family, education, children, theatre, animals and public service. He was an expert in all things dog related and could always pick the winners of the Westminster Kennel Club while watching on TV. The Neary's always had animals including a number of show dogs (St. Bernard's, Irish Wolfhounds, Dachshunds and Border Terriers) that John handled himself in hundreds of dog shows throughout the western United States.
He was a standout football player, wrestler and actor at Capuchino High School in Millbrae and after graduating in 1965 he spent time training at the Pasadena Playhouse, one of the oldest and most respected theatre training programs in the country.
While he decided against pursuing a career on the stage he did remain active in community theatre acting with the Lafayette Dramateurs and serving on the Board of Directors for the Willows Community Theatre in Concord. His family regularly attended theatre productions in San Francisco and Reno and during special trips to New York and London. He had a particular love for musical theatre.
John was an avid CAL and 49er fan and became a season ticket holder for Nevada football after moving to Tahoe City. He loved the experience of sitting in the sun and soaking in the atmosphere of a big game with friends and family. He also remained athletic playing rugby San Francisco Bats, Saint Mary's Old Boys and Contra Costa Cowboys. He played into to his late 40's.
The Neary home was always a warm and inviting place where masses of family and friends would regularly gather to celebrate special occasions and holidays. John & Pat were affectionately referred to as "Mom" and "Dad" by countless numbers of their sons' friends and others in the community that needed them.
Their home and hearts were always open to someone needing a place spend Thanksgiving or Christmas and those boisterous celebrations provided John with some of his favorite moments. His large physical presence, loud belly laughs and booming voice were a staple at these gatherings.
His greatest joy came from spending time with his family and some of his favorite experiences were a month spent traveling with Pat and Sean in South Africa, a two week trip to England and Ireland with Jason and trips to big sporting events around the country with his sons. He and Pat spent multiple vacations in Hawaii and cherished their time on Maui.
He also traveled the world vicariously through his son Sean who has lived all over Africa, Europe and Asia and always brought home amazing stories to share.
John was absolutely tireless in his community service and served on the boards of numerous organizations including the North Lake Tahoe Boys & Girls Club, The Humane Society Tahoe Truckee, Tahoe Truckee Student Attendance Review Board and the Nevada Athletic Directors Association. He also spent a year on the Placer County Grand Jury and was very involved with the Greyhound and English Bulldog rescues.
He received a B.A. in Sociology from San Francisco State University in 1971, Masters in Education from San Francisco State in 1977, an Education Specialist degree from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1998 and had completed the majority of the coursework for a Doctorate of Educational Leadership at the University of Nevada, Reno.
He is survived by his wife Pat, his sons Jason and Sean (Lidia Aklilu), sister Dorlane ( Derone Thrasher), brother Jerry Neary (Bonnie), and many nieces and nephews who he loved very much.
John was truly a renaissance man with a broad array of interests who lived life to its fullest. He left an enormous mark on this earth and will be missed terribly by his family, friends and the entire North Lake Tahoe community.
A celebration of John's amazing life will be held Thursday October 16th at 4pm at the North Tahoe Events Center in Kings Beach, CA. A reception will follow at the events center.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe and the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe.