On May 20, 1973, Neal was born in San Rafael, California. Like he was later in life, Neal didn't like to wait to get started. Upon entering the hospital, he was delivered within four hours. For his mother, Judy, she was filled with love and joy to finally hold her baby boy and for his two older half sisters, Nicole and Lisa, who waited patiently in the hospital waiting room, they’d foreshadow the Neal we all would come to know and love, because he started life out surrounded by beautiful women.
Neal was a happy and loving child, full of energy and curiosity. He loved all things and immediately showed that he wasn't an ordinary child but gifted in so many ways.
The family moved around a lot, living in Saratoga, Tahoe and Redwood City to name a few. It was in Redwood City where Neal's lifelong best friend was born.
In life we take on roles, and for Neal, being the big brother to his baby sister, Tahnee meant something more than titles. Without instruction, Neal looked after her and made it a lifelong mission to protect her. Their relationship was strong from the beginning and never wavered. Theirs would be a lifelong bond that could never be broken.
The family relocated to Carlsbad not long after Tahnee's birth and would call San Diego county home from there out, minus a few minor moves and short excursions.
As Neal grew he made sure to keep everyone on their toes, whether it was Neal surprising his 2nd grade teacher with his fluency in Spanish or him being graded as gifted in a Stanford University test while in elementary school and what would portend his future, he outperformed his grade school principal in a mock stock exchange challenge. Looking back, it all added up to Neal displaying at an early age the man he would grow up to be.
Neal enjoyed learning. He was intellectually curious and from his early years strived to improve himself. However, he wasn't all cerebral; Neal was active in sports early on. He played football, soccer, tennis, rode motorcycles and was a Golden Gloves boxer; and was also known for his ability to jump…. from the roof at the Carlsbad home into the swimming pool, this was an extracurricular activity his mother did not like.
After attending college at both Long Beach State and Chico State, he began a short lived career in aviation. Aircraft and flying was a passion of his, even though he was afraid of heights, a fact few know. Neal began working at a company called Quicksilver Aircraft. There he helped construct ultra lights and trained for his pilot’s license. Brushing aside his fear, Neal eventually received his pilot’s license and took to the air. Neal advanced in the company, becoming the Vice President of Marketing but it wasn't enough.
Unsure of his next move in life he came to his mother for sound advice. He asked if a career move was wise. Like usual, Judy, offered love, support and guidance.
After much thought, Neal made a calculated but risky decision. He quit Quicksilver Aircraft and began a new career as a financial planner. This bold move would set him on a path towards the life he had envisioned for himself and a life where he could engage his creativity and unlock his drive. He’d start this new chapter of his life with Morgan Stanley under a training program. There he’d bust his chops and get firsthand experience in the biz. He leveraged his natural abilities and quickly proved he had a knack for managing money. Within a relative short period of time he became the youngest Vice President in Morgan Stanley. There he’d meet his future partner Robert Meyer and together they’d leave Morgan Stanley for greener pastures with Smith Barney.
At Smith Barney, he and Robert would meet Ryan Clive-Smith and complete the trio that would eventually become The La Jolla Group.
As the years past their influence and funds under management grew, however, they wanted more for their clients and themselves.
In 2012, under Neal’s leadership they broke free from Smith Barney and formed IBIS Capital. They were free and independent but more importantly able to provide their clients with greater investment opportunities.
Along his journey in finance, Neal created unique ways for his clients to make money. His clients were important to him. He was resolute in the belief that their welfare came first and made it a pillar in the culture of IBIS Capital.
For a man of 42 he had accomplished much. He had done what many can only dream. He had been born with talent and leveraged it, however, where he lacked in natural abilities he created through self improvement.
Neal was a doer, a rainmaker. If Neal envisioned it, he’d create it. How many of us can say we have fulfilled the many goals we’ve set for ourselves? How many can take inventory in the years they’ve lived and say that they’ve maximized those hours, days, week, and months to their benefit and to the benefit of those around them? For Neal he made his dream goals then manifested them into reality.
Neal wasn’t all work though, I know many knew him that way, but for a lot of us, we knew Neal’s personal side and this is where I believe he shined. When he wasn’t in his office, on a call or traveling to meet clients he could be found with his family, friends or on the golf course; and if he could put all those together it was perfect for him.
Neal loved golf or a better way to say it, he had a love/hate relationship with it. If you’ve played golf you know what that means. For him golf wasn’t just a game, he worked at it. Like he did in other areas of his life, he just didn’t want to do it, he wanted to perfect it. If you ever had the chance to play with Neal, you might remember his little wiggle just before driving the ball and boy could he drive that ball. His drives weren’t always perfect but I can attest they all went far.
The dedication Neal had for perfecting his golf game translated in how he took care of himself physically, this is why you won’t be seeing dessert served today. He wanted to make his body strong and fit because he believed deeply that a man should have physical strength and be capable. And if six pack of abs came along with it, well, he’d make sure we saw them.
Neal not only lived life he would squeeze the juices out of it. Neal insisted on making his world the best it could be but we haven’t touched on the most important aspect yet.
His work gave him an identity, his extracurricular activities gave him enjoyment but it was his family and friends that provided him love, a legacy and purpose.
Not a weekend went by that he wasn’t with family. Whether that be with me, Tahnee, mom and the girls, Scarlette and Savannah over a Sunday breakfast or all gathered with Uncle Rod, Aunt Jeri, cousins Tyler, Wes and Dan at the Walz Ranch for a holiday or special birthday or occasionally up in San Jose visiting Nicole, Lisa, Leonard and his nephews Mike, Nick, Troy, Trent and his nieces Kaili and Jessica. His passion and pride for family ran deep and if you talk to any of his friends they’d attest to his devotion to family.
Neal respected and cherished his mother. Their mother / son bond was strong; in fact, Neal had the opportunity of having mom come work with him at IBIS. One thing she mentioned was how he’d greet her each morning. With a broad smile and jovial tone he say, “Good Moring, Mom.” That last year together was a priceless gift for the two of them.
For Tahnee and Neal, not a stronger brother / sister bond existed. At least not that I’ve ever seen. In life we can’t choose our family but those two would choose each other as best friends every time if you asked.
And then there are the girls, Scarlette and Savannah. Neal absolutely adored them and in the absence of having his own children liked to consider them his own. He was a fawning and dotting uncle, who loved to spoil them. I know they’ll never forget the many dates they had with him at sushi or seeing him front row for dance recitals. He’d grace our doorway with a smile and a gift in hand for his little nieces.
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.”
We’ve all had the first day and hopefully some of you have discovered that very important second day. For Neal, he had both. He was born forty-two years ago and for him and his family a brilliant and amazing person came into this world. He touched so many along the way and has left an everlasting mark on us. For Neal I know he had many second important days as he touched those he loved in his own special manner.
Neal will always be missed. For us in the family no gathering will be the same without his vibrancy, wit and intense luster for life. An empty chair will always grace our table. Our days ahead can never be the same, how can they be when someone like him touches it then leaves.
Let’s remind ourselves how blessed we all are for knowing him and remember we will see him again.