As a child growing up on a Montana farm that still resembled an untamed frontier, Jesse B. Neil would grab his rifle, sneak out of the house, saddle up his pony Dolly and ride.
Those solitary jaunts were his favorite childhood moments. He got plenty of practice with that rifle, becoming a marksman so talented that even the Marines took notice.
Dr. Neil enlisted shortly before World War II. He was stationed in San Diego and given the task of teaching new recruits on the small-arms range as the only private first class on the base to serve as an instructor.
Once the war started, Dr. Neil wanted to serve on the front lines. He talked his superiors into letting him train as a paratrooper.
His parachute malfunctioned on his final trainingjump, and Dr. Neil broke his back.
That was the end of his time in the military, but Dr. Neil went on to have a long and successful career as a chiropractor, eventually moving to Greensburg. He continued to embody the Marine motto: “Semper Fidelis,” which means “always faithful.”
“He did live that, every day, with his family and friends,” said his son, David Neil. “They were the most important things to him in his life.”
Dr. Jesse B. Neil, 99, of Greensburg died Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.
He was born Oct. 27, 1919, in Fort Peck, Mont., to the late William H. and Mary (Moen) Neil.
Dr. Neil was inspired to become a chiropractor partly because of his injuries and partly following in the footsteps of his younger brother, chiropractor Archie Neil.
Dr. Neil and most of his family were living in California while he trained as a chiropractor, but Archie had a practice in Greensburg. Once, when Archie wanted to take a vacation, he asked his brother to come across the country and take over the practice for a couple weeks.
Dr. Neil agreed, but the arrangement became a lot less temporary when he met a young woman working in his brother’s office.
“It was pretty much love at first sight, when they saw each other,” David Neil said. “And that kept dad here for the next 67 years.”
Jesse and Carmella Neil were married, and Dr. Neil became a permanent Greensburg resident. He grew to love the region — mostly.
“He’s grumbled ever since about the winter,” his son said.
He was an active member of many local, state, national and international chiropractic associations. He got into the field at a time when it was still fairly new, and treated as a dubious practice by many. He worked to legitimize chiropractic medicine.
“He was one of the ones that was primarily responsible for chiropractors being able to accept insurance,” his son said.
In his free time, he loved fixing up old cars, occasionally disassembling them and starting almost from scratch.
“He actually tore the entire engine apart, down to the nuts and bolts, and rebuilt the engine himself,” his son said.
Dr. Neil is survived by his wife of 67 years, Carmella (Ranieri) Neil, son David A. Neil, daughter Patricia A. Neil, and two grandchildren.
Prayers will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Leo M. Bacha Funeral Home, 516 Stanton St., Greensburg, followed by a funeral Mass at 9:30 a.m. at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.
Internment will follow in Twin Valley Memorial Park, Delmont.
Memorial donations may be made to the Greater Greensburg Marine Corps League Detachment No. 834, the Humane Society of Westmoreland County or Disabled American Veterans.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter @Soolseem.