Neale Malcolm Luft Sr., of The Villages, FL, died suddenly on Sept. 9, 2021. He would have turned 90 years old on Sept. 30, 2021. He was predeceased by his wonderful partner of 35 years Myrtle E. Findlay of Chittenango, NY (1928-2019), his youngest daughter Kathleen J. Luft Gamble (1966-2005), grandson, Surya Parashar (1998-2019), brother Clifton Leslie Luft (1922-1993), parents, Clifton Leroy Luft (1903-1931) who passed away in a tragic accident when Neale was 2 months old, Mother Ruth Irene Smith Luft Nash (1905-1982) & stepfather John 'Harp' Nash.
The loving father of 8 children, 17 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren, Neale is survived by his son Austin P. Luft of Cerritos, CA and grandson Austin W. Luft of Queens NY; daughter Ruth-Marie Nizolak and her husband, Joseph P. Nizolak COL (Ret), USMA Class of ‘79 of The Villages, FL, grandsons Stephen A. Fesler of Seattle, WA and Patrick D. Fesler of Whitefish, MT; daughter Margo Luft O’Connell of Walden, NY, grandson Scott A. Craig & great granddaughters Mary L. Craig, Lily P. Craig and Mackenzie G. Craig, all of Shreveport, LA, granddaughter Loren E. O’Connell of Montgomery, NY and grandson Christian J.W. O’Connell of Walden, NY; son Mark S. Luft Sr. and wife Melanie of The Villages, FL, grandson Mark ‘Mickey’ S. Luft Jr. of St. Petersburg, FL, granddaughter Marissa J. Luft Eckley, MD and husband Mason Eckley of Charlotte, NC; son Michael R. Luft of Austin, TX; daughter MaryBeth Boyce and husband Trent Boyce of The Villages FL; grandsons Kenneth P. Wigboldy, USMA Class of 2011, NY, NY and Christopher L. Wigboldy, USMA Class of 2012 and wife Tala Wigboldy of Jersey City, NJ, Jay ‘Jack’ F. Wigboldy Jr. of Tacoma, WA and PFC Wesley W. Wigboldy of Monterey, CA; daughter Kathy Gamble's children, grandson Justin M. Gamble of Richmond, VA, granddaughters Jamee C. Gamble, Katrina R. Gamble of Denver, NC, and Kelly E. Gamble of Charlotte, NC; son, Neale M. Luft Jr. and Jessica Filangeri of Wallkill, NY; the mother of Neale's 8 children, Bonnie-Jane Walker Luft Miller of The Villages, Fla.; nephew Clifton J. Luft of Walla Walla, WA, niece Peni Luft Grubb of West Jefferson, NC; grandniece Desiree Grubb Barr & husband, Ricky Barr of Chicago, IL.
Neale was born in St. Johnsville, NY on Sept 30, 1931. He attended St. Johnsville High School where he was president of his senior class, graduating in 1948. He enlisted in the United States Army and was a part of the ‘Big Red One’ 1st Infantry Division and was transferred to Occupied Germany where he worked as a company clerk. Due to his outstanding performance as a soldier, his commander recommended he apply to West Point. Neale walked the halls of Congress to obtain an appointment to the United States Military Academy. He attended the USMA Military Prep School at Stewart Air Base, NY. After graduating from Prep school, he entered the United States Military Academy the summer of 1952. He graduated with the USMA Class of ‘56 as a “Star Man”, (an academically distinguished Cadet) along with distinguished classmates like General ‘Stormin” Norman Schwarzkopf. Due to his outstanding performance at West Point, Neale was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in The United States Air Force.
Neale started his Air Force career with fixed wing training at Kennett, MO, then onto several bases in Texas, landing in Harlingen, TX for navigational training. Upon completion he was transferred to Dow AFB in Bangor, ME where he was a navigator in the US Strategic Air Command (SAC). Neale was then selected to attend Graduate School and received his MS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois. Following graduation from U of I, he was assigned to McClellan AFB in Sacramento, CA from where he was assigned to a Combat Tour in Vietnam navigating C123 Providers out of Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Neale’s unit supported the US Marines, doing very dangerous drop & run missions to resupply artillery ammunition and other supplies the Marines relied on. After taking heavy anti-artillery and small arms fire on one mission, Neale was missed by one of the enemy rounds by less than two inches. The near-death experience affected him spiritually and Neale decided that night that he would convert to Catholicism and hoped for an additional son that would be named after him. In November of 1968, that hope became a reality with the birth of Neale Malcom Luft, Jr.
After Vietnam, Neale was transferred back to at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH, where he was a part of the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and was responsible for assigning Air Force Officers to Graduate Schools across the US. Neale was a member of Mary Help of Christians Church in Fairborn, OH & was active in the Knights of Columbus there. After his military retirement in 1973, Neale headed back to his home state of New York and settled his family in Walden where he became active in the community. He was a member of Most Precious Blood Church where he was a lector and sang in the choir. He was also an elected member of the Valley Central School Board. An avid golfer, bowler and sports enthusiast, Neale especially enjoyed many seasons of watching his alma mater, West Point, play football at Michie Stadium. Neale worked for Fair Rite Corp, Wallkill, NY as an engineer and then NCR Corp as an Information Services engineer in Poughkeepsie and Syracuse, NY. After retiring from NCR, Neale moved to a Plant City, FL golfing community with his life partner Myrtle E. Findlay where they remained for 27 years. Neale was a passionate golfer, a dedicated fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Buccaneers and Rays. After Myrtle lost her battle with cancer, Neale moved to The Villages, FL to be close to several of his children, and enjoy the numerous Villages golf courses.
Most importantly, Neale was a devoted and loving partner, father, grandfather & great grandfather. He was beloved by all and will always be greatly missed by his family.
To share a memory of Neale or leave a condolence, please go to www.neptunesociety.com/location/Ocala-cremation.
A celebration of Life will be held at Eisenhower Recreation Center in the General MacArthur Room, The Villages FL 32163 on Monday Dec 27th from 0900 to 1230.
In lieu of flowers, memorial may be made to the following:
Wounded Warrior Project - www.woundedwarriorproject.org/donate
911 Memorial and Museum - www.911memorial.org/donate