Quiet Witness: Remembering Arthur McNeill

Newsletter issue: 
April 2014
News item date: 
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

By HPN Staff

Arthur McNeill

      Exemplifying the Greatest Generation, Arthur McNeill (1929-2013) was a civil servant and veteran who lived modestly and gave generously of his time and his savings.  He became a benefactor of The Haitian Project (THP) after reading about THP President, Deacon Patrick Moynihan in Brown Alumni Magazine in the May/June edition of 2010.

      Earlier that spring, McNeill’s son, Tom, gave his father a laptop for his 80th birthday.  The elder McNeill insisted that he had no use for the machine.  However, the prospect of frequent communication with his eight grandchildren eventually reconciled him to the gift.  After learning about THP, McNeill took to the internet with a quest for intel on the Project typical of the retired CIA agent. 

      He discovered the email address of one of THP’s founders, Charlie Wharton and asked for more information about the Project and its Louverture Cleary School (LCS).  The two corresponded electronically and Wharton connected McNeill with Deacon Moynihan.  At about the same time, McNeill learned about THP’s reputation through one of THP’s supporting parishes.

      Impressed by the mission of THP and the dedication of Deacon Moynihan and the staff, McNeill proceeded to give annually and sought to involve his parish, Blessed Sacrament in Alexandria, VA.  At the time of his passing in September of 2013, his family requested that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to THP and the D.C. Central Kitchen, where McNeill had long-served with the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. 

      Deacon Moynihan learned of his passing as he was preparing to call McNeill with an annual update on LCS this past fall. He later commented, “I always found Arthur McNeill's interest in THP inspiring and encouraging.  However, it was only after reading his impressive obituary that I learned of the commonality between the way he lived his life and the principles we are attempting to instill in the graduates of LCS.  His remembering THP in his will is very affirming.” 

      In a manner typical of McNeill’s quiet generosity, he had not informed THP or his children of the bequest. His son, Tom, noted, “He was not one to seek attention or any public expressions of gratitude…He would discuss his giving with Mom, but not with the kids or with anyone else.”  In fact, Tom imagined, as with the laptop, that his dad would have thought long and hard before agreeing to have his story published in HPN.  But Tom and his siblings, Alison Teller and Paul McNeill, agreed that the thought that their father’s witness could inspire others to support the Project would have reconciled him, if grudgingly, to the attention.

      It was with great sadness that THP learned of McNeill’s passing in September. McNeill’s faith-filled dedication to social justice and lifelong service are a tremendous witness to THP’s mission. 

      Visit www.adventfuneral.com to read Arthur McNeill’s complete obituary and learn more about his life of service.