Brian Neely March 1, 1972 to March 3, 2018
A mother looks out the window to the backyard and sees her son digging through a large pile of horse manure. She opens the door and asks her child what he’s doing. He smiles and says, “Well, I figure there must be a pony in here somewhere.”
This is the joke my mother always used to tell when asked to describe my brother … the story about a boy who always sees the bright side, the eternal optimist. And I can’t think of a better way to define Brian Neely.
The son of Jane and Bruce Neely, Brian was born March 1, 1972, in Pittsburgh, PA. Blue-eyed and blond, Brian’s childhood in Pleasant Hills was spent roaming the neighborhood, playing with friends, sliding down Caryl Drive on lunchboxes and riding Big Wheels. When he was nearly 12, our family moved to Houston and Brian was the first of us to embrace all that Texas had to offer.
By this time Big Wheels had grown to bicycles, and soon bicycles became three-wheelers. He and his friends would spend their days riding in the undeveloped areas, often coming back so covered in mud they had to be hosed off in the driveway before being allowed in the house. Brian had also started bringing home animals he found in those woods – most notably snakes – which were never allowed in the house.
It didn’t take long before Brian graduated to rescuing wayward dogs – some of which were lost pets returned to grateful owners, but most of which were strays that became members of the Neely family. He also brought home pet snakes, gerbils, rats, a groundhog, hedgehogs, rabbits, and a parakeet, among other things. It was during this time that Brian’s true passion emerged – his love of all animals. And he would spend the rest of his life rescuing them, caring for them and working with them. Brian was drawn to a life with animals and the animals, in turn, were drawn to him like a magnet. They filled his life with passion and purpose. Animals made him whole.
Brian was just as open and loving to the humans in his life as he was to the animals. And he often found himself “adopting” wayward people as well. He never met a stranger. From St. Thomas to Costa Rica to Colorado to Alaska (just to name a few), Brian traveled extensively and collected friendships along the way. But no matter where he went, Brian always returned home to his little treehouse in the middle of a national forest in Montgomery County, Texas.
And no matter where he was, Brian loved music and attending concerts with his friends. He kept his hair long, usually had some sort of facial hair and was covered in tattoos. He bore more than a passing resemblance to Kid Rock and once convinced an entire group of college kids that’s who he actually was. But beneath that tough looking exterior was an enormous heart.
Brian was generous, caring, empathetic and smart, with a quick wit and contagious laugh. Though his time with us was shorter than any of us wanted, his life was fuller than we could have ever hoped. No matter his age, Brian was always filled with a child-like enthusiasm that was infectious. And even in those times when life would try to drag him down, Brian was still that optimistic little boy just looking for the pony.
Brian is survived by his parents, Jane and Bruce Neely; his sister and brother-in-law, Susan and Mark Petrunio; his significant other, Christine Vaughan; his aunt and uncle, Cyndy and Pat Greenish; his cousins Kristen Dentler and Patrick Greenish, and their families; and countless friends around the world. Services will be held Saturday, March 17, 2018, at 11 a.m. at Darst Funeral Home in Kingwood, TX.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Memphis Zoo in Brian’s name.