On June 2, our community (Willows, California) lost a notable veterinarian and a compassionate human being, Arthur Neves. On Sunday (June 17), we met to celebrate his life.
At first, I thought it was a little odd to be conducting a memorial service on Father's Day. It didn't take me long to figure out why, though.
One, Sunday might have been the best day for those who work in the veterinary practice--although no day can be a really good day for something like this when a person is always on call--but given the number of his employees and colleagues who came, Sunday afternoon became logical, to say the least. Some came from hundreds of miles away.
In addition, Art was first and foremost a family man. He loved his wife Peggy and daughters Lenore and Stacy with a steadfast, unwavering affection. And it became apparent during the service that his sons-in-law, Brian Rooney and Dan Cranfield, thought well of him, too, coming to think of him as a second father. Each stood to tell some stories about how they met him and how he won their admiration and their affection. Thus the service on a day when we honor fathers.
The Elks Lodge where they held the service, one of the largest buildings in Willows, strained at the seams. The smart ones arrived at least 15 minutes early. Those who got there "on time" found they stood rather than sat.
I wish I could relate all the stories people told. I thought I knew him okay, but when those closest to him finished, I could tell I only knew a piece of him. He tended our animals, and he was the husband of a dear friend. What I knew of him fit into only one small corner of his life.
One friend told of the fun they had shooting clays. Another regaled us of the joys of cowboying. His sons-in-law chuckled over going with him to impregnate mares. A young vet who worked with him laughed over adventures with a herd of sick cattle.
People laughed and cried, never knowing which to do next. I wish you could have been there.
Art, you will be so missed. You brought joy into an incredible number of lives, people and animals, both. Thank you for what you gave, and I'm sorry we didn't give more back to you.