ForeverMissed
This memorial website was created in memory of our magnificent husband, father, grandfather, uncle, colleague, and friend. 

Neill was a man among men.  Led by an innate curiosity and a passion for living, Neill sought experiences and befriended people from all over the globe.    He shared his experiences generously and lovingly with his family and friends which had a profound impact on us all.   We invite you to celebrate his incredible legacy with us. Our family has deeply appreciated every story and memory that has been shared with us so far. Please feel free to post your messages, tributes, photos, videos and memories here in the hopes of celebrating his life together.   

Short tributes can be posted using the Tribute section below. Photos, stories, and video messages can be shared by clicking the Stories or Gallery tab at the top of the page. Our hope is to compile these tributes and memories into a book later on
Posted by Vinny V on September 11, 2021
To Gretchen & family
Our deepest condolences to you & family.
We pray that God will comfort, watch and guide
over you like you’ve never experienced.
We sure missed Neil deeply being a very good neighbour and
the very nice conversations on different topics especially on fishing & politics. He was a truly lovable neighbour and kind person and we will always miss his presence
May his soul rest in peace and may God grant you the strength to endure this great pain. We will always remember his kindness & we express my sincerest sympathy to you and your family. Your loss saddens us deeply!!
Posted by Ron Wanless on July 13, 2021
Gretchen, Chris & Family,
Please accept our condolences on the passing of Neill. Neill touched our lives initially through PebbleCreek's Life Long Learning classes. We spent several years in his class. We were inspired and in awe of his class preparation, depth of knowledge on any subject and willingness to share or debate any topic. He could take either side of a debate or discussion and come out a winner. In our mind Neill was an original adventurer, a worldly traveler, marvelous real storyteller and teacher with an IQ off the charts. He was many things to many people, but a friend to all who knew him.
I marveled at his fishing stories and pictures at Bella Bella and only wish I could have joined him once to see a master at work and play. In looking back through our years and lifetime, Neill stands out as one of the most interesting and incredibly talented and bright individuals we have known. We will miss our friend until we meet again.
We pray Gods blessings may comfort and console Gretchen and all of Neill family and friends. Betty & Ron Wanless
Posted by SANDY BLACKBURN on June 28, 2021
Larry and I met Neill and Gretchen shortly after we moved to AZ. Our opportunities to get together were across a bridge table but the evenings included great conversations. We have always been interested in travel and have lived overseas but Neill and Gretchen lived in such interesting places and were willing to share some of their experiences which we found fascinating. We are not fishermen but we enjoyed hearing about Neill's great experiences as an outdoors man and seeing some of his treasured pictures. We also found it interesting to hear his views on current politics and his fondness and pride in his children's accomplishments. He will be missed by all who knew him and our condolences go out to Gretchen and the rest of the family. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
Posted by Patsy Hughes on June 23, 2021

My longest memory of Neill is when I shared a pram with him at our English grandmother's house. I was a toddler and he was a baby and I had to sit at one end while he lay at the other. I think I resented the fact that I could not sit in my pushchair!

Neill was my cousin and we kept in touch over the years. He was a larger than life character and shared a love of fishing with my late husband, John. One year they went on a fishing expedition by seaplane, camping by a lake in the North of Canada. I also remember a photo of him at the age of 16 in California, holding an enormous fish. Neill recommended that we visit the Galapagos Islands where he used to dive, photographing sharks. We had a fascinating holiday, one of the best of our lives.

Just one note, I am English and live in the UK, so keeping in touch was quite a problem. I shall miss Neill, a very special person.
Posted by John and Stella Conway on June 22, 2021
Neill and Gretchen are our in-laws as Chris is married to our daughter Michelle (yes - another Michelle Martin!).

Neill and Gretchen live near us in Calgary and also live near our place in Pebble Creek in Goodyear. Neill would always help us out when we flew in to Phoenix by picking us up at the airport. He was a very adventurous guy all of his life and he told us many stories. We enjoyed much discussion and laughter at dinners and get togethers with the extended family. 

We will certainly miss the salmon Neill caught at Bella Bella every summer that we barbecued - fresh from the sea! We will miss Neill a lot and when it is our turn to go, we hope he gets the party started ASAP !!
Posted by Michelle Martin on June 22, 2021
By: Michelle Martin (Conway)

Neill was my father-in-law and I knew him for 29 years; I have a lot of special memories of him.  One of the earliest memories I have is that he loved to fish! My husband Chris always enjoyed going fishing with him in Bella Bella, British Columbia, and I joined them on one of those occasions. 

Neill was very knowledgeable about everything pertaining to fishing, boats, tidal information and could navigate his way anywhere! On this particular trip in Bella Bella, Neill took the time to show me a special totem pole on one of the islands in the area and introduced me to Chief Harvey (of the Bella Bella tribe) and his wife. Chris and I always remember Neill waking us up at 5:00 am each morning to head out fishing. We will never forget those foot steps coming up the wooden path to our room and then the loud, enthusiastic knock on our door to get us going. After our first full day of fishing we came back to the fishing camp for dinner and I innocently asked, “well, what are we going to do tonight?” and the answer from Neill was of course, “we’re going right back out to fish! “ 

Neill and I had a lot of great political discussions which I always looked forward to, and really enjoyed. I will miss those moments, as he was very knowledgeable and had conviction in his ideas and opinions. 

Our dinners together were always lively, with lots of debate and lots of laughs, and there would always be a good white wine or a Malbec that everyone could enjoy. 

I will miss you, Neill, and I hope you are resting peacefully….until we see you again….
Posted by john halle on June 21, 2021
I have only known Neill for a short time. I was a Navy Frogman and Neill . . .
well . . . one of the most accomplished divers I have ever met. We got on quite well from the start, exchanging stories of our adventures. His under water photos . . . especially the ones of sharks . . . outstanding ! A man of keen intellect, direct, and to the point, always with a twinkle in his eye . . . that was Neill Martin.

Michelle and I miss you dearly. You are in our thoughts and prayers, and we look forward to seeing you again. Sleep well old partner . . . .
Posted by Judith Hansen on June 21, 2021
To Gretchen
Grant and I were so sorry to hear of Neill's passing  Please accept our condolences.
We have so many fond memories of get-togethers with you and Neill in Arizona.
We are thinking of you and your family.
Hugs,  Judith and Grant
Posted by Gerry Orbell on June 20, 2021
I came to know Neill later in his life when we were both at Antrim. He was always very straight, kind and thoughtful – in fact just the sort of man you want as a good friend. I respected his comments and advice and they were always based on his considerable expertise and innate common sense. It is my good fortune that our paths crossed and that we enjoyed good times together.
Posted by Donald Cranston on June 19, 2021
After I graduated from university, Neill took me under his wing as my first boss. We both worked for division of Lavalin, Global Trading. During my three years with Neill, his mentorship and truly amazing business sense and acumen gave me the confidence to venture out from the corporate world and join our family business. His open leadership style combined with the importance of nurturing strong relationships through trust and respect are the foundations on which I have followed throughout my business career. I wish I had more time to spend with Neill fishing, scuba diving and this crazy new and fun game of pickle ball he loved . I extend my heartfelt condolences to Gretchen and family for the loss of a wonderful husband and loving father...
Posted by Rick McLeod on June 19, 2021
I just heard today that Neill died in Arizona and I felt an instant sense of loss. I am a recent acquaintance of Neill - he was kind enough to include me on several fishing expeditions to Shearwater at Bella Bella with Kerry Fulton. He was an inspiring fishing guide for Kerry and I - I learned a lot from him and was constantly amazed at his incredible endurance and patience for fishing long hours in a little boat!

What a wonderful, wide ranging life he led. So many different and varied experiences that filled his coffers with memories. We heard a lot of stories floating and trolling around the islands of Bella Bella! I will miss him and them.
Posted by Stephen Greer on June 19, 2021
I never really understood the meaning of the phrase 'larger than life' until I met Neill. Neill the Alpha Dog, the natural leader. Infinitely generous with his time. Never shy to share his opinion. How many lives did he influence? Certainly mine and many many others.
My enduring memories are of Neill at home at the boardroom table, dispensing advice on doing business in Argentina, Tanzania, the North Sea and any place in-between; next day on a plane to Guatemala or Ecuador; Neill navigating the BC west coast - catching and harpooning that 100 lb halibut at the same time being chased by a couple of killer whales; Neill on expeditions to find fossils and gemstones in Arizona; Neill fishing the Red Deer and Bow rivers, but never where anyone else would fish and rarely in good weather; flying in to remote lakes with an inflatable boat and a shotgun in the hold; happily swapping war stories over a tin of beans and a glass or two of whiskey in a rain-sodden cabin.
All adventures initiated and perfectly executed by Neill.
He was always the leader and in many ways he still is.
Thank you Neill.
Posted by Jenny Stuart on June 19, 2021
What a wonderful gallery showing a life well-lived. I only met Neill once, but he was full of stories of adventure, fishing, and lots of travel. If life is a journey, not a destination, then Neill's had many wonderful stops along the way.
Posted by Rosemary Smith on June 18, 2021
I was Neill's sister in law and for some reason we weren't able to get together as much as I would have liked. However, the time I spent in Calgary was so wonderful. Neill had so much to show me of his travels, artifacts, pictures etc. and we had such a great time that its time I've never forgotten. The last few years I've had many phone conversations with him since when I called Gretchen wasn't at home. How much I enjoyed them. I will miss them and Neill especially as I had hoped that I would get to AZ. to visit. My prayers and thoughts and much love are with Gretchen, Chris, Michelle and Greg. 
Posted by glenn breen on June 16, 2021
I've only known Neill for a couple of years, yet I can clearly see the impact he has had on so many. I got to know Neill thru Great Decisions. He was beyond good as a knowledgeable facilitator and one just had to appreciate his breadth of knowledge and manner. He has traveled EVERYWHERE!

I also got a prized invite from Neill to join him on a Canadian salmon fishing trip. I would have loved being in his company for days straight, not only for the opportunity to learn so much about the fishing (and eating the freshly caught fish), but also for us to explore so much of his past life. 

While Neill truly loved life, that was second to his love for Gretchen and family. We will all dearly miss him, but can cherish all the good memories from how Neill lived his life. We will miss him.
Posted by John Hadl on June 16, 2021
Greg from what you told me of your father and I have seen in the pictures and tributes from so many he clearly touched many lives and will be remembered!
Posted by dennis madden on June 16, 2021
As Canadian snowbirds for the past decade, my wife and I spent three months each year in Pebble Creek, with much of the time spent with Gretchen and Neill, sharing their active life style, including tennis and pickleball, Great Decisions discussions, Xmas concerts, trips to the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forrest, dinner parties, and visits to Scottsdale for dinner and the Capitol Steps theatrical performance.

I had the good fortune for several years, to collaborate with Neill in preparing for the Great Decisions discussions. Neill spent several weeks preparing for the upcoming sessions. A visit to his home during this period revealed, what Gretchen referred to as the "War Room", which was in great disarray with dozens of papers, magazines, books and maps occupying every inch of space on the floor and walls. For me, Neill's devotion to Great Decisions brought together his love of teaching, his profound curiosity and his deep knowledge of geography and political affairs.

Neill had a great passion for his many pastimes , including his global travels to Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. There were few countries he had not visited. He was always venturesome and often related exciting tales of his many encounters with the wildest creatures of nature, including Komo Dragons in Indonesia, sharks in the Caribbean and crocodiles and anacondas in the Llanos of Venezuela. He became a highly proficient diver, photographer and fisherman.

Neill took great pride in his family, his wife Gretchen, his daughter Michelle and two sons, Chris and Greg. He frequently praised Gretchen for her inexhaustible energy and he ability to keep up with him in his many pursuits.

As Neill and I both spent some years in Venezuela of the 1950s, we frequently reminisced about our experiences. Neill had a passion for Venezuela and its culture, and learned Spanish and much about Venezuelan folklore. While living in Caracas he had the good fortune of numerous expeditions to the remote mountain areas, and in engaging in the very vibrant ocean and jungle life of Venezuela.

I was privileged to know Neill over the past decade and to share his impressive knowledge of life, be it business, geology, geography, society or politics. He had an exceptional memory for facts of every conceivable kind. What did you have for lunch, and in what country on June 21, 1957? Neill gave a detailed response, and even observed it was raining that day.

We will all mist you Neill as a dear friend, teacher, raconteur, a bon vivant and an exceptionally talented person.
Posted by Darrell Cyr on June 16, 2021
A Great Dive Buddy! Neill and I meet when I started DaSilva Dive Tours with Luke DaSilva he became a trusted advisor to the business a customer and a good friend who I will miss but just thinking about the trips we did together brings a smile to my face. If there is a example of how to live life to the fullest Neill would be a great role model. 
Posted by Teresa Bzdek on June 15, 2021
I met Michelle's dad shortly after I purchased my house in Seattle. While we enjoyed Cuban sandwiches Neill entertained us with stories about his travels with Gretchen. He struck me as someone who enjoyed life to the fullest and was always ready for his next adventure.

My condolences to the entire Martin family at this difficult time.
Posted by Jay Zammit on June 15, 2021
Neill was an important influence to me in my life, both professionally and personally. When Chris first introduced me to Neill through Antrim we hit it off straight away. Over time Neill became a life long roll model and mentor. Neill is the ultimate professional advisor on a Board of Directors. A man of utmost integrity. I cherish the (all to brief) times we had at meetings, Christmas parties, “Martin Guided Tour” fishing on the West Coast, Bow River and Red Deer River and numerous lunches and dinners. Not to mention the annual Neill Martin Cousteau adventure dive photo presentations that Deb and I cherished and looked forward to with great anticipation. Deb and I loved the story Neill told of a curious and hungry shark that had followed him up from a free dive, prompting a decidedly speedy surface over the side of a small boat that Gretchen helped him scurry into while Neill was yelling, “Shark!” We left those photo presentations well fed with Chinese food, stories and inspiration to do more adventures of our own. We love the stories. All of them; from dive stories to sailing around Cape Horn (twice) to knowing Hobie from surfing. I will miss Neill and will never forget how he generously shared his life experiences and advice, how engaging he was in great conversation about any subject and how inviting he was into his life and adventures. A better friend, mentor, roll model there is not. Rest In Peace “Ole Pardner”.
Posted by Murray Sears on June 15, 2021
Like others in this Tribute, Debi and I shared many happy times with Neill, Gretchen and our families over our 35 years of friendship, including a memorable excursion to Rocky Point in Mexico and an amazing day of super-bloom flowers in the Sonoran Desert.

Neill loved fishing of any kind and taught me trout casting techniques while drifting idillic afternoons down the Bow River in his treasured flat bottomed river boat, and we scrambled many weekends in the Red Deer badlands under a blazing summer sun searching for dinosaur fossils. Gretchen has endless patience for displaying Neill’s impressive and eclectic trophy collection in their home!

And what a storyteller! Did he tell you the one about struggling with a big Pacific halibut near Bella Bella when an American, fishing nearby, came over to help? Straining on his rod with his fish at the surface and YELLING for a gaff to spear it, Neill was shocked to hear a very loud BANG. Seems that the American had a shotgun as part of his fishing gear and decided to help by shooting Neill’s fish! Neill’s response is unrecorded. Or the time when Neill was towing a halibut too big for their boat when an adult killer whale cleared the surface in a great leap with his trophy fish in its mouth, almost landing on their little boat?

Or when a fresh-minted Navy pilot in an A4 fighter aimed his jet at a California beach crowded with women, children and dogs on a lazy summer afternoon? When almost overhead, the pilot pulled his plane skyward and lit his afterburners, creating a sonic boom that rolled off the cliffs and down the beach, sowing panic as the crowd fled the area. Apparently the miscreant pilot was punished and Neill certainly never endorsed his behaviour, but it was hilarious as Neill, arms outspread A4-like and in full animation, demonstrated how it happened. He loved to tell his stories and had many to share from his rich life.

Our greatest adventure occurred on a remote stretch of the South Saskatchewan, seeking new fossil grounds that Neill had sussed out near the restricted Suffield Weapons Range. We were making good time on the river when suddenly we were both ejected from the boat, likely after hitting a deadhead log. Surfacing and sputtering midstream in surprise and confusion, we tread chilly water for a few minutes while watching our empty boat buzzing circles nearby, but too dangerous to approach. After a brief discussion of our options (one), my 83 year old friend and I struck out swimming for opposite shores, hoping we could make the distance.

By tremendous good luck the boat ran onto a gravel bar a mile downstream, saving Neill a 10 mile trek overland to a distant highway for rescue as I was on the opposite side of the river and stranded. Upon return to the truck we discovered phones, sun glasses, wallet and worst, the truck key had been lost to the river and the only spare was 250 miles away in Calgary. Definitely not our day!

Eventually a good samaritan passed by and lent us his cell phone to call A.M.A. to tow our truck and boat trailer, and to call Gretchen to plea for rescue with the spare key from Calgary. Near midnight, drained by mosquitos while awaiting our tow, we arrived in Medicine Hat to overnight in a flophouse, the last room available. The next morning Gretchen, our angel of mercy, skipped Sunday Mass and drove the three hours to deliver the precious spare key. Hopefully Neill, our buddy Bob Widmer and I will meet up again to go find those fresh fossil grounds and the trophies denied to us on this (mis)adventure.

Larger than life in intellect and deed, we will miss Neill’s courage, color, debates, good humor and pickleball competitiveness. RIP dear friend. Debi and Murray Sears
Posted by Judy Aitken on June 15, 2021
Gretchen,
I always enjoyed hearing about the wonderful travel adventures you and Neil experienced.
Please accept my sincerest condolences. I am thinking about you.
Judy Aitken
Posted by Gary Eppen on June 15, 2021
I met Neil through Great Decisions at PebbleCreek. He had an amazing breath of knowledge and experience that made every session come alive. For the last couple of years I helped Neil organize the sessions and quicky realized how much time and talent he contributed on a weekly basis. In this process I got to know both Neil and Gretchen better. It was a real pleasure to have them as friends. My heartfelt sympathy to Gretchen.
Posted by Valerie Adler on June 15, 2021
I met Neill and Gretchen in the 1970’s when they were living in Venezuela . We took to each other immediately and formed a fast friendship which has lasted until todat. .
Neill and i had long conversations over the phone until recently which I shall greatly miss . His love of life , his interest in everything was a source of delight to everyone who had any contact with him .
It’s hard to think I’ll never again hear his hearty laugh or his voice but I can cherish the memories and celebrate his long fruitful life.
My deepest condolences go out to Gretchen and his family
Valerie Adler 
Posted by Chad Widmer on June 14, 2021
Having met Neill for the first time through my father Bob, I remember him telling stories of diving and travel that captured the imagination. I said to dad, “He has to be exaggerating,” to which my Pops said, “Every word is true. Neill is the most honest man you will meet.” Since then, I have had many chances to chat over dinner and drinks with both Neill and Gretchen. I now understand the truth of that statement and this: you can always be honest AND kind. Our condolences to Gretchen, family and friends.

Chad Widmer and Shelagh Burrowes
Posted by Sam Duke on June 13, 2021
My deepest sympathies go out to Gretchen and all the family on the sad loss of such a remarkable man. 
My late husband Richard and I enjoyed Neill's company and wonderful stories as we shared diving adventures around the world. He will remain an integral element in my scuba diving memories.

My heartfelt condolences,

Sam Duke
 
Posted by Ron Gibson on June 13, 2021
To: Chris, Greg, Michelle
I had forgotten your mom's maiden name was Wegener. Genetics being what it is, your mom has to be a relative of Alfred Wegener-an early 1900's very famous German geologist-"The Father of Continental Drift"-he started the plate tectonics revolution in Geology. Your dad was the first person to go through the UCR geology grad school. Quite a geology legacy in your family!
Ron Gibson 
Posted by John Flynn on June 13, 2021
My early contact with Neill was in Great Decisions class for which he was the facilitator. He invited me to join the group because he was aware I had a different perspective on politics and he appreciated it when I challenged him on some issues. I respected him for that.
Carmel and I enjoyed being on a Pub Quiz team with Neill and Gretchen as well as visiting with them at Irish-American Club and Tennis Club events.
Neill had a vast range of experience. He will be greatly missed.
Posted by Kathryn Crook on June 13, 2021
I first met my uncle Neill in 1995 at my cousin Chris’s wedding. Prior to that, he was a mystery man who in my mind was either an international spy or in the underworld...... Of course, he was none of those but he did become after that meeting, according to my now adult children, “the most interesting man in the world”!

When we arrived for the wedding, I immediately told my children to stay out of the living room as there were many interesting and irreplaceable items from Neill an Gretchen’s travels. I did venture in with Neill, who explained origins of the items and stories behind the pictures. Probably my favorite were his pictures of him diving with hammerhead sharks and boating next to killer whales. The morning we left Calgary, he was out scraping off our frosty windows of our car.....

Through the years, we all looked forward to Neill and Gretchen stopping at our house in Utah on their way to Arizona. Again with new stories and opinions of politics. At my cousin Greg’s wedding, I was exhausted between dancing with Neill and my father! I believe they were in competition with each other on who could stay on the dance floor the longest!

He provided a needed distraction to my children at my fathers funeral. If I was looking for my kids, I needed to look no further than them holding court with great uncle Neill.

We will all miss him but the memories of him live on. Our condolences to all the Martin Family. Love you all!

Kathy and Joel Crook
Posted by sheila foster on June 13, 2021
We only met Neill and Gretchen at our dive dinners over several years. It was always a joy to sit next to Neill and listen to his myriad stories of exploits in the ocean. We knew little about his exploits on the ground! What an amazing traveler and giant of a man. Everyone looked forward to his AV programs where his skills as an underwater photographer and videographer shone. An amazing example of how a truly good, long life should be lived. Our thoughts and sympathies to Gretchen and your whole family that we fell we have now met through the wonderful slide show on his memoriam page. Sheila/Ted Foster, Calgary Dive Club
Posted by lyn Canterbury on June 13, 2021
It has been a great privilege to have known Neill for the past twenty years. We enjoyed sharing our previous life stories as well as making new ones. We will miss him.
Posted by Maureen James Stewart on June 12, 2021
Gretchen, we are saddened to hear of Neill's passing. He has been a vibrant presence and will be missed as our neighbour in Fairways Villas. We are sending our condolences to you and to your family.
Posted by Rob Scott on June 12, 2021
To label Neill Martin a "Giant among Men" is an understatement. I daresay Neill had the most positive influence on my life's journey in more ways than I can express here.

I had a closing interview with Neill at a Burger King in SE Calgary in 1975, and was privileged to join his sales team at Foremost. After an initial training period, and a few more Whoppers at BK, Neill sent me off to Houston to represent the company, primarily in Texas and Latin America. What an adventure! Neill accompanied me on my first trip through my new territory...Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil...and at every stop along the way, for me, it was a whole new world; for Neill, business as usual. In fact, the highlight for Neill on that extended trip was handily beating the tennis pro at the Sheraton Hotel in Santiago, Chile - I never heard the end of it!

We worked together for just 4 years, but I feel blessed that during those few years we'd become the closet of friends...a friendship that endured for some 40+ years. From fishing and scuba diving in Puerto Vallarta to numerous trips to Bella Bella - hours on the water spent discussing and, of course, solving all the world problems, and maybe even catch a few fish! Neill was a constant inspiration.

Neill my friend, you will be missed.

Dear Gretchen and family, please know our warmest thoughts are with all of you.

Rob and Mary
Posted by Carmen Montminy on June 12, 2021
It was an honour to have known Neill and rewarding to have been his friend. A classic Renaissance man our family has such fond memories of his dynamic personality... larger than life shall
A family man , principled and enthusiastic. his spirit will be long lived among family and friends
May God hold him in the palm of His Hand
Posted by muriel johnson on June 11, 2021
We first met Neill and Gretchen in Calgary in 1974. We've been proud to call them friends ever since. We share common values, enjoyed the same activities and any of our meetings never failed to be one of laughter, serious discussion and straight talk. We are going to miss him. Muriel & Bob Johnson
Posted by Jim Hansen on June 11, 2021
Neill Martin fits my definition of one of the “most unforgettable characters” I have met. We met in Venezuela in 1969 though scuba diving activities and maintained a close and active friendship while we went our separate ways living and working in different countries. We shared common interests because we both were geologists. But it was mainly our common interests in outdoor activities that kept bringing us together over the years, primarily diving, fishing and boating. Neill was excellent at all of these and they are responsible for some of the most enjoyable and exciting (even terrifying) experiences of my life. But the key word is activities as Neill was never still so we fit in basketball, tennis, pickle ball, cards, exploring and whatever. 

Neill was a man of many other abilities and accomplishments. He managed companies in cement, paint, and marketing in several countries, He taught business at university level and did management marketing for international countries. All this combined with his inquisitive mind and love for adventure made him one of the most travelled and knowledgeable persons I have known. He is also one of the most self confident - and deservedly so.

Gretchen shared many of Neill’s adventures but often had to hold down the home. Neill was very proud of his family and the accomplishments of their 3 children. He always gave Gretchen credit and praise for the home life and support she provided.

My condolences to Gretchen and the family.

Neill will be greatly missed.

Posted by Bonnie Swain on June 11, 2021
My former husband and Neill were graduate school classmates and later worked together at American Cement. When they were both working on an extended project in Greece, Gretchen and I stayed together as she had finished teaching and was awaiting the birth of Chris. I best knew Neill as a young family man in his 30's with a new house, a new son and a very wired dog named Snoopy. Neill's boundless energy and vast interests obviously lasted the many, many years he was blessed to live. Deepest sympathy to Gretchen and the family on your great loss.
Posted by cathy howell on June 11, 2021
We were lucky enough to be on a Pub Quiz (trivia) team with Neill & Gretchen, so we benefited greatly from the vast treasure chest of their life & travels to get us into a winning position. Watching him dig deep to find the right answer was a treat. There will be a large gap in our world knowledge from this time forward.
Posted by Renee Gearhart on June 11, 2021
I had the privilege of caring and getting to know Neill for only a short few hours. It was truly a Divine appointment
The walls of his room were covered in pictures of his adventures and time spent with his family over the years.
He spoke a bit about his patriotism but
absolutely BEAMED as he spoke about his PRECIOUS family and how he was married to “his Best Friend”❤️
He continued, naming each of his children and with the pride of a lion he talked about how proud he was of each one and what outstanding human beings they are and their lovely spouses and his precious grandchildren❤️ Adoration unsurpassed ❤️
He was a precious sweet soul that God allowed across my path and I am so grateful
Posted by W Verkerk on June 10, 2021
I was very blessed to have had this man in my life. He was one-of-a-kind because he was unusually genuine, sincere and knew the value of a good friend. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent with him as he had some incredible stories from a life well lived.
My fishing trip to Bella Bella with him will forever be a highlight of my life not just for the beautiful setting, but also for the lesson learned on how to live life to the fullest at any age. Neill was the energy in the lodge during that trip, with all the other staff and tourists alike looking to him with admiration and inspiration. He was the youngest man I’ve ever known.
Neill has left some very large shoes to fill but he showed us how to fill them.

Forever greatful. 
Warren Verkerk
Posted by Steve Bartell on June 10, 2021
Neill is my uncle from Gretchen’s side of the family. For myself and my brother and 2 sisters, he was somewhat of an enigma, as we didn’t get acquainted with Neill until we were grown, it was just how things worked out. Yet, from an early age, we became familiar with who he was through all that he had done and would go on to do in his life, career-wise and personally. I shared with Chris some time back that I had envisioned him as James Bond, larger-than-life, scuba gear at the ready. In time I would have the privilege of having him and Gretchen stay at my home and he more than delivered on the “larger-than-life”! As interesting as he was to engage in conversations that followed, what struck me even more about Neill was how “interest-ed” he was in so many things, even in getting to know me and in what I was doing in my career. I’ll always remember with sincere gratitude the support he was to my mom at the passing of my father, and I cherish the photo of my dad grinning broadly and holding up a huge salmon he caught while fishing with Neill at Bela Bela - one of those trips of a lifetime. We’ll miss you Neill, with heartfelt condolences to Gretchen, Chris, Michelle, Gregg and their families.
Posted by Bernadette Bartell on June 10, 2021
I have had the privilege of being Neill’s sister-in-law for almost 60 years. My late husband,Henry and I had many adventures and wonderful memories with Neill and Gretchen, both in Canada and in the States. Neill occupied my husband’s time with fishing, golf, and talking politics, while allowing Gretchen and I to shop unencumbered which we loved.  I will miss him greatly! Blessing to the whole family!
Love always- Bernadette
Posted by shirley newis on June 10, 2021
Bill and I do not have words to express the great loss of our good friend, Neil. He was a man who experienced life to the fullest. We met Neil in the early 80's at our tennis club. You remembered him because he did not have a backhand, he just switched hands. Very disconcerting for his opponents. You always knew when Neil was at the club because there would always be a group around him listening to his many stories. Neil had an uncanny ability to express his many experiences in great detail. Neil had very strong opinions that were always backed up with accurate research. We enjoyed every minute we had the privilege of spending with he and his dear wife, our good friend, Gretchen. They complimented each other perfectly. A perfect day started with an hour or so of pickle-ball; followed by a "gourmet" hamburger at Neil's favorite restaurant (Burger King); and completed with an evening of competitive bridge. Neil was intensely competitive which made he and Bill great partners. They would be shocked when Gretchen and I would come out on top. These times grew to be a great part of our life and will not likely be easily replaced. We send our prayers and love to Neil's family at this trying time. May the Lord bless each of you with His comfort and love.
Posted by Bob Widmer on June 10, 2021
Neill always strove to get the best out of life. He was always doing or planning something, if it worked he'd do more, if it didn't, he'd try something else.  

It's doubtful if Murray Sears and myself would ever have caught a large salmon or halibut if not for Neill's determination to get us to go to Bella Bella.  When there he'd get us up in the wee hours of a cold, dreary morning. Neill would then drive the boat like a bat out of hell through the mist of the morning, with Murray and I cowering in the back or behind the windshield, trying to protect ourselves from the cold and frayed nerves - but not to worry, he knew every nook and cranny in that part of the world.  On one trip the weather was so bad we couldn't take my Seneca, but not to be deterred, he took it upon himself to book commercial flights - that was Neill.

On another occasion, Murray, Neill and I took our buggies hunting for arrowheads and shark's teeth along the Little Colorado river north of Phoenix. Or by Chinle for petrified wood. We would wander for hours on these occasions and although Neill's knees were troublesome, he would always power threw it, in this or any other endeavor ----- he was a doer and my respect for this man cannot be overstated.  He was a man's man.

But he was also a mentor. His wealth of knowledge towered above me in so many ways. During conversation he would enlighten me on various topics in his own congenial way. If he didn’t know the answer to a question he would research it and get back to you with the details.

The passing of our friend Neill can't take away our fond memories which will last until it's our time.
Bob and Mardelle
Posted by Peggy Richardson on June 9, 2021
Ah, we will all miss this vital knowledgeable man!!
For me, he was a great pickleball partner and a feared opponent. His long arms and legs covered so much of the court that I called him the gorilla at the net.
I met Neill about 12 years ago in pebble creek, and after a number of gatherings at homes I realized his brain stored an amazing cache of facts. Don’t know something, just ask Neill —forget google. Most seniors have memories that dim, but not Neill.
He led our LLL discussion groups year after year, and he was brilliant. He had first hand knowledge of many of the countries we discussed, having traveled or lived in them. He painstakingly researched every topic discussed.

I always loved how much he adored Gretchen—-adored and admired. He’d just come right out and say “She’s a REALLY good person you know.” It’s a beautiful thing to hear that praise from spouse to spouse.

I’m deeply saddened at the loss of him, and send heartfelt sympathy to all the family
Posted by Dale Hannaford on June 9, 2021
I have known Neill since Sept.1975 when he hired me to work in the marketing dept of Foremost Industries, he was the Sales Manager at the time. Over the years I worked with Neill at a number of different companies and he was really the only “boss” I have ever known. We became friends and ultimately Neill was the primary influencer of my adult life, aside from my wife.

We went on countless adventures together, everything from looking for dinosaur bones, lost golf balls, fishing, sea kayaking to 4wd trips in Utah. And although there was never a consensus on the political life of the day, he was great companion. Many memorable hours were spent travelling in the car, boat or sitting around the campfire.

Neill purchased a folding sea kayak and we decided to take it out the islands west of Bella Bella for a 10 day trip, this entailed driving to Bell Coola, renting a Beaver sea plane and flying to Bella Bella. Where we assembled the kayak, stuffed the thing to the gills and paddled off for our 10 day trip. I think over the course of our 10 days we saw a total of 3 fishing boats at a distance but no other people so it was remote.

On the morning of the second day I saw Neill walking down the beach back to camp with something that looking like a wet white football in his hand, and I asked what’s that? He said that he had dropped our one roll of toilet paper in the water as he was tending to his morning ablutions. Neill’s comment was “it will dry out”. He never failed to remind me over the years of the utter look of horror on my face as the impact of what he was saying struck home. 

A couple of days later in the trip he managed to redeem himself. We had paddled into a bay, beached the kayak and as we always did, set off to have a look around. When we returned to the beach the boat was gone, the tide had floated it well out into the bay. If it had fallen to me, we might still be there, but Neill sprinted down the beach, dove into the water and retrieved the departing kayak. He was a great swimmer and a man of action, he will be missed.
Posted by Tiffany Martin on June 9, 2021
Neill is my grandfather and I remember as a child he had taken my brother and I to the badlands with our parents to go dinosaur bone hunting. My brother and I always thought it was so cool that he had these tiny bones of ancient creatures that he had found. He was such a cool guy, always wanting to explore, travel, and knew so much about different countries and their cultures. He and my grandmother had so many amazing collections of artifacts and souvenirs at their home, that their house was almost like a travel museum. He was an active man, still playing lighter sports and going for bike rides into his late eighties. He knew a lot about business, and when I was older and a business student myself, I realized just how knowledgeable he is in the subject and how well he understood economics and marketing. As a funny thing, he absolutely loved Carl’s Jr. and to this day every time I pass one I think of him.

Though from the outside we were pretty opposite, sometimes debating things we did not agree on, after his passing I have come to realize just how alike we were. We were both passionate about business, were big on debating and arguing (which, sometimes would happen in the living room), both have a taste for adventure and travel, love the water and the beach and love the family. And sometimes, we’re both sore losers at sports or board games (especially pickle ball or monopoly).

His passing has shown me how much life there is to live, and how it is possible to live all of it. To go and see the world and meet so many different people and learn about everything.

I hope to be like him and live a life of adventure, and hopefully he even half as knowledgeable about the world as he was.
I love you, Grandpa.
Posted by Ron Gibson on June 9, 2021
What a man! Neill was the first person to get a grad school degree in Geology from UCR, I was the second. We became fierce opponents on the tennis court in grad school and friends off the court. Neill got me a summer job as junior geologist at Riverside Cement and, after grad school a full time job with American Cement. We worked and traveled together together for many years. I remember well Neill and Gretchen's wedding and often, over half a century would think how lucky Neill was to have Gretchen as a wife. Gretchen is a tough, patient, loving woman and had to be, for Neill was always a bundle of energy and action.
Neill was the most charming person I have ever known, I think because he was so passionate, smart and well-spoken. In his later years I often regretted that we did not live closer together, people like Neill are so rare. Smart, kind, always living a life of action-what a guy. My condolences to Gretchen and the kids. I'll soon be seeing Neill Down Below for, to quote Mark Twain: "Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company".
Ron Gibson

Leave a Tribute

 
Recent Tributes
Posted by Vinny V on September 11, 2021
To Gretchen & family
Our deepest condolences to you & family.
We pray that God will comfort, watch and guide
over you like you’ve never experienced.
We sure missed Neil deeply being a very good neighbour and
the very nice conversations on different topics especially on fishing & politics. He was a truly lovable neighbour and kind person and we will always miss his presence
May his soul rest in peace and may God grant you the strength to endure this great pain. We will always remember his kindness & we express my sincerest sympathy to you and your family. Your loss saddens us deeply!!
Posted by Ron Wanless on July 13, 2021
Gretchen, Chris & Family,
Please accept our condolences on the passing of Neill. Neill touched our lives initially through PebbleCreek's Life Long Learning classes. We spent several years in his class. We were inspired and in awe of his class preparation, depth of knowledge on any subject and willingness to share or debate any topic. He could take either side of a debate or discussion and come out a winner. In our mind Neill was an original adventurer, a worldly traveler, marvelous real storyteller and teacher with an IQ off the charts. He was many things to many people, but a friend to all who knew him.
I marveled at his fishing stories and pictures at Bella Bella and only wish I could have joined him once to see a master at work and play. In looking back through our years and lifetime, Neill stands out as one of the most interesting and incredibly talented and bright individuals we have known. We will miss our friend until we meet again.
We pray Gods blessings may comfort and console Gretchen and all of Neill family and friends. Betty & Ron Wanless
Posted by SANDY BLACKBURN on June 28, 2021
Larry and I met Neill and Gretchen shortly after we moved to AZ. Our opportunities to get together were across a bridge table but the evenings included great conversations. We have always been interested in travel and have lived overseas but Neill and Gretchen lived in such interesting places and were willing to share some of their experiences which we found fascinating. We are not fishermen but we enjoyed hearing about Neill's great experiences as an outdoors man and seeing some of his treasured pictures. We also found it interesting to hear his views on current politics and his fondness and pride in his children's accomplishments. He will be missed by all who knew him and our condolences go out to Gretchen and the rest of the family. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
his Life

Neill's Life Chronology


Neill will always be loved and remembered in the hearts of his loving wife, Gretchen, sons Chris (Michelle) and Greg (Alexis), daughter Michelle (John), and 4 grandchildren, Tiffany, Nicholas, Benjamin and Alexandra.

Neill was born in San Francisco in 1931 and spent his youth in southern California in Laguna Beach. While growing up, he spent countless hours diving, fishing and boating in the ocean, and had a great love of sports which he continued throughout his life.Neill graduated from Chaffey High School in Ontario, California in 1948, and attended Chaffey Junior College from 1949 – 1950.In 1951, he moved to Venice Beach, California and attended UCLA where he was a walk-on with the UCLA basketball team, under legendary coach John Wooden who was an early mentor to him.

In 1952, Neill was drafted by the US Armed Forces to fight in the Korean War.  He is proud of his service and was a true patriot throughout his life.  After his tour of duty he resumed his college studies at UCLA before transferring to University of California at Riverside (“UCR”).In 1957, he graduated with a geology degree from UCR, and then commenced working for American Cement Company.  While working at American Cement, Neill also obtained his Masters degree in geophysics from UCR.

Neill met his future wife Gretchen (a school teacher) in Riverside. They married in 1962 and had their first two children, Chris and Michelle while in Riverside. In 1968, American Cement transferred Neill and the family to Palma de Mallorca in Spain where they lived for two years. In 1970, Neill began work for a new company in Caracas, Venezuela where the family lived for three years.  In Venezuela, Neill and family were frequently on the ocean, enjoying fishing, diving and boating.  In 1972, the family’s third child (Greg) was born in Caracas.

In 1973, Neill took advantage of a job opportunity in Calgary, Canada. Since then, Neill and Gretchen have resided in Calgary on a full or part-time basis.  Neill has worked in several industries in Calgary, including the oil patch, where he was a consultant and an owner of a reservoir engineering company.  He was a trail blazer as the first graduate of the MBA program at the University of Calgary (“U of C”), and later became an adjunct marketing professor at the U of C.As part of his business career, Neill was a director of Antrim Energy and the Canadian Sport Association, where he provided valuable guidance.

In Calgary, Neill continued his love of the outdoors taking the family on numerous camping, hiking, boating and fishing trips in Alberta and British Columbia.  He also went on annual salmon and halibut fishing trips for 35 years to Northwest British Columbia that became hallowed ground for Neill and the numerous people who accompanied him.  Neill loved taking the family on trips all over the US and Western Canada, including annual trips to Mexico which provided the family numerous special memories and invaluable experiences.

In 1999, Neill and Gretchen bought a house in the Goodyear area of Phoenix, Arizona.  They continue to have a residence in Goodyear today, splitting time between Calgary and Goodyear as “snowbirds”

Led by his innate curiosity, Neill was an avid traveler and explorer, as he and Gretchen travelled all over the globe and enjoyed learning about cultures across every continent and all walks of life.In particular, Neill was an accomplished scuba diver and underwater photographer and did numerous presentations for the Calgary Dive Club.  He was a captivating story teller and an incredibly interesting man.

Neill lived his life for his family.  Married for nearly 59 years, Gretchen was the love of his life, best friend, and constant travelling companion.  He deeply loved his children and grandchildren and loved attending their sporting events, special activities and sharing his passions and stories with them.  Neill was a mentor to his kids, grandkids, students and friends and positively impacted the many people he came into contact with.  He will never be forgotten and his spirit lives on …







Recent stories

Happy Father's Day

Shared by Michelle Martin on June 20, 2021
Dad,
Happy Father's Day.  You will always be on the top of my dance card.  I miss you very very much!
Love you,
M
Shared by John Jelderks on June 15, 2021
We first met Neill in a Great Decisions class, when he moderated the group.  We were impressed with his breadth of knowledge on many of the topics, supported by his wide-ranging experiences while living in many parts of the world.

Later, Neill and Gretchen joined our Pub Trivia team, and their knowledge of the world helped with many answers.  He had a good sense of humor and we even had fun being humbled together on some occasions.

Our trivia team members have been guests in Neill and Gretchen's home, where we enjoyed their gracious hospitality.  We will certainly miss Neill, his bigger-than-life presence, and especially his entertaining stories.

Our hearts go out to Gretchen and the family as they mourn his loss.  We look forward to seeing Gretchen when we return to PebbleCreek.

Pub Trivia Champs at Pebblecreek!!

Shared by Bronwyn Kelch on June 11, 2021
One of the pleasures of life in Pebblecreek is the opportunity to meet and make new friends from all points of the compass.  A number of years back the combined knowledge of our American/Canadian/Australian team helped our Pub Trivia team, the Muddleheaded Wombats, take home the very valuable medal of honor!  
We've shared travel tales with Neill and Gretchen over the years, picked a lot of their lemons and when they moved into their newer home Neill shared some of his rock collection which is now adorning our backyard!
Neill's enthusiastic presence will be sadly missed - our love and support are extended to Gretchen and all the family.
Bronwyn and Doug Kelch