By Cindy Rank
As noted in the Board Highlights article in the November 2018 Highlands Voice, Bill McNeel’s recent departure from the Board ends a service that began “approximately forever ago”.
It’s hard to tell just when Bill came on the scene, but his presence has been felt from nearly the beginning of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
Whether lobbying Congress for Cranberry Wilderness in the early 70’s (see picture on page xxiii of the 40 year history book, Fighting to Protect the Highlands), or working with the Shavers Fork Coalition in the 90s, or involved in the many Greenbrier River and public lands issues over the years, or helping Dave Elkinton edit the 40 year history, or assisting with preliminary brainstorming and early planning sessions for the Conservancy’s 50thAnniversary Celebration a year ago, or opposing unnecessary gas pipeline construction through the Greenbrier River,….. Bill has been there, quietly adding his thoughtful, caring and wise input about the broad range of issues facing WVHC.
Not normally in the headlines, Bill has been part of the glue that has held the organization together all these years, one of the reinforcing rods that strong foundations are made of, an essential part of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy from the beginning.
His soft-spoken unassuming presence, behind-the-scenes work, and long-lasting commitment underscore his deep love for West Virginia and appreciation for the work of the WV Highlands Conservancy. His breadth of knowledge and deep roots in Pocahontas County give him a unique understanding of West Virginia, her people, and the wild lands and waters that are her treasures.
Bill’s commitment to the state and the environment, is obvious from his years of involvement with WV Highlands Conservancy. But, as much as Bill has given to this organization, we would be remiss to not mention his numerous other contributions.
Skim through the WV Encyclopedia, or Google, or back issues of the Pocahontas County newspaper and time and again you see references to Bill’s documentation of important historic facts about railroads, forests, the lumber industry, Camp Allegheny, the Durbin Trail, flooding in his hometown of Marlinton, the Greenbrier River and Greenbrier River Trail, and contributions to the Pocahontas Historical Society.
It’s worth repeating the following brief bio that appeared in the special September 2017 anniversary edition of the Highlands Voice.
William P. (Bill) McNeel has deep roots in the mountains of West Virginia with his father’s family living in what is now Pocahontas County since before the Revolutionary War and his mother’s family since the early 1800s.
He was born in Charleston in 1939 and grew up there, but came to Pocahontas County after college graduation to teach high school. After several years of teaching (including two in Australia), he began working for The Pocahontas Times, which was purchased by his mother’s family in 1892. He was editor for 25 years before retiring in 2008; He has a BS degree from Marietta College and a MS degree from the University of Oregon.
His love of and concern for the protection of our mountains can be traced back to the many visits made to his parents’ home county of Pocahontas while growing up. Also the influence of his grandfather, Calvin W. Price – an early conservationist and for whom a state forest is named – must also have played a major role.
He considers the WVHC to be one of the most important protectors of our state’s environment since its 1967 formation. “I am proud to have been a member almost since the creation of the organization and am honored to have served on the group’s Board for many of the past fifty years”.
We sincerely hope Bill and his wife Denise continue to stay in touch and offer bits of wisdom and insight and perhaps write an article or two or four for the Highlands Voice.
In this holiday season, this time of gifts and giving thanks, we give thanks for Bill and for his many years of service on the Board, his gifts of time and energy that he so graciously gave.