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Dorothy Neil honored in sculpture ceremony

Staff photo / Jim LarsenDorothy Neil entertains the crowd by offering one of her famous blessings. - Jim Larsen
Staff photo / Jim LarsenDorothy Neil entertains the crowd by offering one of her famous blessings.
— image credit: Jim Larsen

About 50 friends and relatives interrupted their 4th of July holiday plans to honor Dorothy Neil on Thursday.

The long-time Whidbey Island writer, historian and community leader was the center of attention as the group headed by Oak Harbor Mayor Patty Cohen lauded Neil’s contributions to island life while officially accepting from her a sculpture titled “The Journey Home,” which was created by Neil’s son, Doug, who lives in New Zealand.

Neil was in fine form for the occasion, having apparently sharpened her barbed wit that morning. Dressed in a red silk blouse and a 4th of July vest with red, white and blue sequins, Neil accepted the accolades with grace and fired back when she felt it necessary.

One woman wished the 90-something Neil another century or two of life, to which Neil responded: “Why do you hate me?”

Noting the Irish Neil’s many contributions to the Dutch community, a man announced that she had been given the honorary name, “VanderNeil.”

Neil thought for a second, then replied sternly, “I’d like to talk to you afterwards.”

When asked to offer one of her famous blessings, Neil came up with the following: “Here’s to you and here’s to me, may we never disagree, but if we do to heck with you, here’s to me!”

Mayor Cohen staged the event beside three young Garry oak trees Neil had earlier donated to the city. The limestone sculpture sat in the front yard of Neil’s home across the street for years, but now it has a permanent location. The Parks Board is having a plaque made.

Helen Chattfield-Weeks led the crowd in a hearty series of “hip, hip, hoorays” in Neil’s honor, the mayor unveiled the sculpture, and the ceremony ended. But not before city council member Sheilah Crider noted that on the 4th of July, the city was honoring its most beloved citizen.

“Thank you for being a great American for all of us,” Crider said.

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