Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight - Inez McNeal

Her steps are slower, but Inez McNeal says

Jesus is still walking beside her

As a child, Inez McNeal walked three miles a day to school. As an adult, she walked almost that distance to work at two Birmingham city schools. She continued walking to FBC Ashville and to the Ashville Senior Citizens Center into her late nineties, then rode the bus for a few more years after that.

At 103, her steps have slowed, and she moves through her house with the aid of a walker. She misses her friends at the Center and at church, but she’s thankful that she gets around as well as she does. “I never thought I’d live this long,” she admits.

Raised in the Sand Mountain community of Beulah, McNeal didn’t start school until she was 9 years old. At 14, she was the first runner-up in the state Spelling Bee. She lost to a 16-year-old girl on the word, “derivative.” She finished high school in Boaz at 19 and married William B. McNeal when she was 20.

Eleven people sat around the family dinner table in the household where Inez grew up, including her seven brothers and sisters, her parents, and her paternal grandmother. It was a bit crowded, but McNeal learned not to be a finicky eater.

She spent 25 years as a lunchroom cashier at Avondale Elementary and Woodlawn High schools in Birmingham. She retired from Woodlawn in 1970. “Avondale was within walking distance of my home, and I got my lunch free,” she says. “My husband had just come home from the War (WWII) and we lived in a dumpy apartment. We were 15 years getting into our first home in South East Lake. I have anything I want now because I’m frugal. It’s the way I was raised.”

Her husband died in 1992. Her daughter, Meredith, and son-in-law, Tony Sparks, along with one of her grandsons and his wife, Andy, and Kellye Sparks, are active at FBC. McNeal has nine great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren, with another on the way.

Tatting, gardening, reading, and quilting used to keep her busy. She made a quilt for each of her great-grandchildren and for several great grands, but her fingers and her eyes just won’t cooperate any more. “My eyesight and my brain are no longer working like they used to,” she says. “But at least I know it and admit it.”

She still enjoys watching Wheel of Fortune on television and seeing how many questions she can answer. She still plays solitaire, too. “She plays on her side of the table and I play on mine,” Meredith Sparks says. “If she beats Sol (Solitaire) she bangs on the table with her fist.”

Saved during a two-week August revival when she was 14, McNeal was baptized in a creek used as a drinking and bathing facility by Sand Mountain livestock. She says she doesn’t know how she would have gotten through life without the Lord walking by her side.

Her son, Bill, moved in with her about five years ago to cook and keep house for her. He has been in bad health recently, and McNeal has moved to a nursing home in Oneonta. She will be 104 in March.

If she could change anything about herself, she would be more tolerant, more giving, more appreciative, and more patient. “People are supposed to get sweeter as they get older, and I’m working on it,” she says. “I’ve lived a good life, more so than I deserve. I want people to know that I’m looking forward to the time when I’ll be with my Savior and see my loved ones again.”

-By Elaine Hobson Miller