Jan. 2, 1943 – Feb. 25, 2018
When Richard A. Neil married Marilyn Smith after he graduated from Canisius College in 1964, his father, Matthew Niedbalski, had a piece of advice for him.
“Papa Neil said before you have any children, change your name because that’s a long name for someone in business,” his wife said. “He wouldn’t have done it without his father’s blessing.”
Mr. Neil went on to a successful career as a business owner and was a prominent supporter of Catholic educational and charitable causes. He died Sunday in Kenmore Mercy Hospital after a short illness. He was 75.
Born in Buffalo, he grew up on the Polish East Side and was a 1960 graduate of Canisius High School. After he earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Canisius College, he was a member of the college's first MBA class in 1972.
He held several accounting and comptroller positions before becoming treasurer for Curtis Screw Co. in 1974. He played a major role in establishing the company’s branch operation in North Carolina before he left in 1984.
He acquired Plaslok Corp., a manufacturer of plastic molding compounds in Cheektowaga, in 1985. He was owner and president until he sold it in 2000.
In 1994, he established Neil Development Co., a commercial and industrial real estate development firm, and was owner and president until his death. The company is managed by his sons, Matthew and James.
“He didn’t want to retire,” his wife said. “He’d say, ‘If there’s something you really like to do, it’s not work.’”
Active in many roles at Canisius College, he served as president, vice president and secretary of the MBA Alumni Association board. He was a longtime member of the Canisius Council on Accountancy, serving as chairman from 1990 to 1992 and co-chairman for fundraising for accounting scholarships.
He was director of the Canisius College Alumni Board and a member of the Wehle School of Business Advisory Council and the college’s Board of Regents.
He chaired the annual Fund Cabinet in 2003-04, which exceeded its goals. In 1991, he established the Richard A. Neil '64 Family Scholarship, which is awarded to accounting majors.
Mr. Neil served on the boards of trustees of Canisius High School and Nardin Academy and was a member of the Diocesan Board of Catholic Education.
He was a director of the St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation, a member of the Children’s Guild Foundation and a benefactor of the BISON Children’s Scholarship Fund and the Mother Teresa Home of Buffalo.
“He was dedicated to the Catholic Church and Catholic education," his wife said, "and he was dedicated to the Jesuits.”
The Neils began dating while they were in high school, he at Canisius and she at Nardin. A registered nurse, she served for many years as patient advocate at Sisters Hospital.
“We met at the corner of Delaware and Cleveland (avenues),” she said. “He was 6-foot-4. He stood out in the crowd.”
He and his wife have been members of the Bishop’s Council on the Laity for more than 20 years. Longtime parishioners at St. Louis Catholic Church and active with Catholic Charities, they also supported the restoration of a stained glass window in nearby St. Michael’s Church, a Jesuit parish.
A resident of Lancaster and Elma before moving back to Buffalo in the 1980s, he also was a director of the Buffalo Club, the Point Abino Association and the Financial Executives Institute, where he also served as president. He was a member of the Canoe Club of Buffalo and the Cherry Hill Club.
He was a supporter of the West Side Rowing Club and was the father of two medal-winning rowers, sons Matthew and James. James was a member of the U.S. National Rowing Team and competed in the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992. Mr. Neil traveled around the world to watch his sons compete.
He was honored several times for his service to Canisius College, beginning in 1991 with induction into the Digamma Honor Society. In 2007, he received the college’s highest award to an alumnus, the LaSalle Medal.
Canisius High School presented him with its St. Peter Canisius Award in 1993 and inducted him into its Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame in 2001.
Survivors also include a daughter, Maribeth Malachowski; his oldest son, Christopher; a sister, Diane Kaczorowski; and five grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 1 in St. Louis Church, Main and Edward streets.