BRADENTON -- Home builder Pat Neal graciously accepted the Manatee District Boy Scouts' Fourth-Annual Distinguished Citizen "Good Scout" Award on Friday.
Neal follows General Jerry L. Neff in 2013, Manatee High football coach Joe Kinnan in 2012 and Dan Blalock, Jr. in 2010, all of whom were chosen because their lives "reflect the values that are at the heart of the Scouting mission ... loyalty and perseverance, commitment, hard work and service to others," in the words of David Dignam , president of the Boy Scouts of America's Southwest Florida Council, of which the Manatee District is part.
An audience of 125 comprised of Manatee County community leaders saw a video tribute to Neal in the
Kiwanis Hall at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
In the video, real estate developer Carlos Beruff , Leisa Weintraub of Neal Communities, Pat Neal's son, John Neal, banker Tramm Hudson, Jim Boyd of the Florida House of Represenatives, The Honorable Judge Gilbert Smith Jr. and Charles Clapsaddle of Manatee Educational TV all quipped about Neal's Boy Scout character.
Beruff recounted how, during a deep sea fishing trip, Neal insisted they stop their boat to help a sea turtle ensnared in fishing line.
Hudson said for the 27 years that he had been Neal's banker, Neal would take meticulous notes during their meetings and then send him a letter summarizing what they discussed.
Smith called Neal a "man of faith and patriotism who has always wanted to make America great."
Neal appeared emotional as he thanked many in the audience for the honor, including his wife, Charlene, who minds the home fires one weekend every year when Neal and his sons, John, 38, and Michael, 22, have their "Dad & Lad" annual camping trip.
But instead of touting himself, Neal told the Boy Scouts that they should really give a future award to his good friend, Bradenton attorney Greg Porges, like Neal a former Boy Scout.
To prove Porges' award worthiness, Neal showed the audience an antique knife-sharpening rock, including its leather holder from the 1940s, that Porges had kept in good shape and gave to Neal to donate to the Boy Scout museum at Camp Flying Eagle.
But Neal, whose Neal Communities has sold more than 9,000 homes in five counties since 1970, also got serious Friday.
"Scouting is really about instilling character in young men and the values of society," Neal said. "This was certainly something that we did in the 1950s and 1960s because we thought it was important. And, sadly, something has been lost in civil society in 2014. Boys needed back then, and need today, appropriate and good authority and father figures as they have to learn to be men. It does not come by osmosis or nature or in the air. It has to be learned."
Neal said he joined Boy Scout Troop 50 at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1960 when he was 11 and rose to the rank of First Class.
"As I had grown up with my mother, I needed a father figure," Neal told the audience. "The father of my friend, Tom, was very important to me. Mr. Bradley was a saint. He talked like he always had his mouth full of tobacco. But he was very deep, thoughtful, disciplined and wonderful."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond