Emma May ‘Emmy’ Neil
December 1, 2011
Emmy Neil passed away on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011 from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease.
Emma May “Emmy” Neil was born to Fowler W. and Ethel M. Overton in Denver, Colo. on Aug. 21, 1923. She and her two brothers, Tom and Ray, grew up in North Denver and she graduated from North High School in 1941. After graduating she took courses at the University of Denver while working for a moving company as a switchboard operator. In the late 1940s, Emmy moved with her parents to Burns, Colo., seeking the clean mountain air that could help cure her father of his respiratory problems from his days as a firefighter.
It was while living in Burns, that Emmy discovered her love for teaching and service. Her first teaching job was at the one room school house on Derby Mesa. Emmy believed in making work fun, which explains why she coached track and organized rollerskating for kids in the community. During her time in Burns, she also began her work as a 4-H leader.
It was in Burns that Emmy met and married the love of her life, Clifford Neil. Clifford always said he rode by on horseback and roped her. Their first two sons Bill and John were born while living in Burns. Their third son, Jim, was born after the family moved to Glenwood Springs.
Cliff and Emmy moved to Glenwood in 1954, soon after Cliff bought the Conoco gas station on the corner of Sixth and Pine. During that time, Emmy was a homemaker and worked at Callan’s Shoe Store before formally pursuing teaching as a career.
Emmy was a student when Colorado Mountain College first opened and simultaneously started instructing tailoring, quilting, crocheting and knitting. She was a member of CMC’s first graduating class, receiving her associate of arts degree in 1968. She taught up and down the valley, from Aspen to Rifle, for more than 30 years.
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She could teach most anything to anyone and her students included a special community member, Jan Niemann, and her seeing-eye dog, Dawson. While most students attended Emmy’s classes to learn, others attended for the friendship. The most beautiful works of art were created when the two were combined. Emmy helped make garments to celebrate many of life’s most important moments – wedding dresses, sweaters for grandchildren, and quilts that will undoubtedly be passed down for generations.
Teaching wasn’t a job to Emmy – it was her way of life. Outside of her work at CMC, she established the Glenites 4-H Club in 1955 and served as the club’s leader 47 years. Emmy was a staple at the Garfield County Fair and for years staffed the exhibit hall. Her students’ works received numerous grand champion and reserve grand champion awards at both the county and state fairs. She also served as a Girl Scout leader which took her on adventures around the world as a chaperone for trips to Europe, Japan, Canada, Mexico and Hawaii.
Emmy and her partner, Claire Jean Redding, owned the Knit-Wit shop for numerous years, selling yarn and knitting supplies to locals from across the region.
She never tired of serving others and in 1992, Emmy took her first (of 10) trips to Glenwood’s Sister City, Teotecacinte, Nicaragua where she established a sewing cooperative focused on teaching women how to sew in order to become self-sufficient.
Emmy was recognized many times for her service to her community and for instilling the spirit of giving back in generations of women. She was recognized as the Colorado Citizen of the Year in 1963 and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Citizen of the Year in 1991 in addition receiving to the “9 Who Care” Award. Emmy will forever be loved and her legacy will live on in each one of us.
Emmy was preceded in death by her husband, Clifford Neil (Oct. 23, 1985); parents Fowler and Ethel Overton, and her brother Ray. She is survived by a brother, Tom (Margaret) Overton and her three sons, Bill (Margaret) Neil, John (Linda) Neil and Jim (Debbie) Neil. She is also survived by four grandchildren and their families: Jason (Lisa) Neil and their children Makenzie and Peyton; Heather (Henry) Fox and their children Tanner, Austin, Kaila and Kody; Lindsay (Raul) Neil and their children Christopher and Raul; and Ryan Neil.
There will be a memorial service to celebrate Emmy’s life on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. at Mountain View Church (next to the old Buffalo Valley), 2195 County Road 154 in Glenwood Springs. Pastor Dave Pearson will officiate.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the 4H Scholarship Fund in memory of Emmy Neil. Checks should be made to Garfield County 4-H and sent to Box 1112, Rifle, CO 81650.
If you have photos of Emmy you’d like to share with the Neil family, please email Heather Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put photos of Emmy in the subject line.