MARION COUNTY, Kansas — A 2014 Waxahachie graduate and his cousin were killed in an early afternoon crash Friday in Marion County, Kansas.
According to a KSN.com report, Caleb Spencer Neal, 22, and his cousin were traveling near the 100 block of Timber Road when the northbound 2008 Honda sedan struck a utility pole. The report states the driver lost control of the vehicle on the gravel roadway in the single-car accident that occurred Friday, June 30 at approximately 2:30 p.m. Both occupants were pronounced dead at the scene.
Neal, the son of Ed and Winnie Neal, was a member of the Spirit of Waxahachie Indian Band and National Honor Society while attending Waxahachie High School, where he graduated from in 2014 as the salutatorian. He was also a three-year drum major and had multiple all-state band recognitions.
“Success. Success is a word commonly misused in our American culture,” began Neal during his 2014 salutatorian address. "[…] In this day and age, it is so common to misuse the word success with the word accomplishment. Often we find ourselves establishing our value and self-worth through all that we have done.”
Neal continued his address by explaining how the American culture is widely taught to build its foundation of life on the sands known as success — based on owning the biggest house, driving the fastest car or working the best job.
“I refuse,” he emphatically stated. “I refuse to build my foundation on something that is so unsecured. I refuse to build my foundation on a million pieces of grainy sand. Instead, I choose. I choose to build my foundation on the one who made the success. I choose to build my foundation on the rock known as Jesus Christ.”
After reading from Matthew 7:24-27, Neal looked into the sea of green robes and asked, “My question to you is, are you going to build your life on the rock or are you going to choose to build it on the sand?”
He received a standing ovation from the crowd gathered inside Stuart B. Lumpkins Stadium. The full address can be viewed on Youtube, courtesy Sheila Zimmerman.
Following his high school graduation, Neal enrolled at Texas Tech University with plans to attend seminary to become a minister. While in Lubbock, he was involved with First Baptist Church of Lubbock, as well as playing guitar in the music-based devotional, Paradigm.
According to a report by KCBD in Lubbock, Neal was an engineering major, carried a 4.0 GPA and served as a community advisor at the Chitwood-Weymouth residence hall on the Texas Tech campus.
Bruce Zimmerman, a pastor at Waxahachie Bible Church where Neal attending while living in Waxahachie, broke the news on Facebook at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 30.
“Caleb Neal loved the Lord and served Him,” Zimmerman stated. “He was a straight-A student at Texas Tech, played the guitar and led in worship. He had plans to serve the Lord in ministering to others.”
He added, “Our hearts are all broken. Please pray.”
The post had accounted for over 535 shares and upward of 470 comments on Facebook as of Monday afternoon, July 3.
One of those shares came from Waxahachie High School drama director, Andy Reynolds, who wrote, “Please pray for the Neal family. One of the sweetest young men I have ever known has left us too soon.
"Caleb Neal was always an example to all of his classmates and teachers on what it was to be a Godly young man," Reynolds continued. "I can remember telling my students that someday I hope that my daughter finds someone like Caleb Neal. Waxahachie ISD and our community is absolutely heart broken for the Neal family. Prayers!”
Another one of the testaments to the life of Neal came from Ezra Chairez. The Dumas native and Texas Tech graduate stated that Neal was “one of the biggest blessings” in his life.
“His devotion to Christ was inspiring and he truly was unashamed of what he believed in. He was a witness to me and many others at Texas Tech. My heart aches for his family,” Chairez wrote. “I will never forget the many discussions we shared and his love for Christ, music and spreading real joy. If you ever had a chance to meet Caleb, you know exactly what I mean. What an impact this guy had.”
Others, like Jay Abernathy, posted tributes to Neal directly to his Facebook page. Abernathy, the associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Lubbock where Neal worshiped while attending Texas Tech, recalled how the young man was one of the first to welcome him to the church.
“Across the room or around the town, he would call out and greet me, and it made me feel like a part of the entire church,” Abernathy wrote. “Certainly, he treated many others the same way, but Caleb had the gift of making me feel as if I was at the top of his list at the moment he was with me. My prayers are lifted to the Lord for family and friends as we are among those who grieve, but with hope, until the day of our Lord's appearing!”
*Editor's note: The staff of the Waxahachie Daily Light extends their condolences to the Neal family, as well as the Waxahachie and Lubbock communities.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith