Life Story / Obituary
Derwyn McNeill was an exceptionally loving husband and father. Equipped with a natural thirst for knowledge, he never failed to find a use for his time or resources. A natural when it came to fixing anything around a garage or home, he spent much of his life passionate about automobiles. Derwyn modeled living life to the fullest and there was no doubt that his family was his most important priority. His generous and gracious guidance, as well as his unconditional love, will be deeply missed by his family and many special friends.
The 1940s were characterized by WWII. In the year Derwyn was born, the Pentagon, considered to be the world’s largest office building was completed. On May 23, 1943, Robert McNeill and Nancy Burroughs welcomed home their newborn son in Bakersfield, California. Joining his older brother, his birth brought much hope and happiness to the family home.
Derwyn lived a typical childhood of the times. Ambitious and determined, he worked as a dishwasher as a young adolescent. A good buddy taught Derwyn how to fix cars and he fell in love with tinkering with engines and repairing them from that moment forward. Later, the family gained two stepbrothers and the boys remained close throughout their growing years. Graduating from Bakersfield High School, he accepted a position as a draftsman for a successful oil company. Derwyn was well liked by his boss who always gave him plenty of work before he chose to enlist in the United States Coast Guard. His time in the service afforded him the opportunity to generate enough money to pay his way through college and taught him a lifetime of skills used to be a successful auto mechanic. As a matter of fact, he was one of the best! His strong skill set landed him a job with the Mazda dealership in St. Joseph, Michigan where he remained the best in his trade for many years.
Not to be forgotten was the love of his life, Grace! They joined in marriage on January 26, 1997. The two of them shared many common interests and had a natural chemistry between them. Although he was raised Baptist, the newlyweds attended St. Mary Catholic Church in Paw, Paw, Michigan. They were blessed with a wonderful son, Mathew who they shared many memorable trips around the U.S. exploring their favorite spots. Grace loved the beach so they would often go as a family to Lake Michigan or to the local waterpark. Most content whenever they were all together, Derwyn loved making lasting memories with the two of them. One of the most memorable trips they experienced together was an international trip to the Phillippines where Derwyn was able to get to know Grace’s extended family members. A true once in a lifetime trip, he often talked about how fortunate they were to have visited such a beautiful country. As a father, he was very supportive and cherished attending Mathew’s karate and other sporting events. His proudest moments by far, however, were witnessing his graduations from high school and later from the Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Proud beyond measure, he wanted nothing more than to share in Mathew’s every success and happiness!
Derwyn held a vast array of special interests over the years. Clearly, he knew each and every make and model of every car ever made. He did his best to spark that interest in his son as well, yet it never quite ignited the way it did for Derwyn. Due to his deep love of cars, his days spent as a mechanic never really felt like work to him. Nothing brought him greater joy than fixing or repairing a vehicle for a customer over the years. He also had a special knack for remote control planes. He was a proud member of the RCA club for many years spending countless afternoons fixing and flying planes as a hobby. Time-consuming as it was, he landed himself a trophy for an RC plane he built before giving up the hobby because of the expense. Boating was another favorite pastime where he was known to tool around Lake Michigan on his Four Winns speedboat with his family and friends. In his younger years, he enjoyed water skiing. Grace finally convinced him to give it up however as it was getting too dangerous for a man his age!
In his later years, Derwyn took pleasure in the simple things in life. He and Grace adopted a puppy named Angie. Shortly after taking her in, Derwyn fell completely in love with her as did the entire family. They quickly became inseparable and Angie would often lie with him as they watched a science fiction film or documentary. He and Grace went on countless dates to the movie theater, but were just as satisfied with a night at home on the couch together. As passionate as he was about so many of life’s special interests, he was most passionate about his family. Derwyn leaves behind a wonderful collection of memories for his loved ones to savor forever. May they never doubt his love for them or forget the special place they had in his heart.
Derwyn A. McNeill, age 75, of Lawton, Michigan died on January 2, 2019. A soft-spoken man by nature, Derwyn got along well with many people. He was a handyman by trade and enjoyed his career as an auto mechanic. He also had a fond love of remote control airplanes. Surviving are his wife, Grace McNeill; children: Mathew McNeill and Bradley McNeill. Visit with family and friends on Friday from 5-7PM at Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Home, 60900 M-40 Hwy, Paw Paw (269) 657-3870 where the Rosary will be recited at 7PM. A Funeral Mass will be held at St. Mary Church on Saturday at 10AM. Cremation will take place following the service. Please visit Derwyn’s personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home.