Abbie Neal, 85 years of age, of Reno, NV, died on February 15, 2004 at
Manor Care. Her caregiver and friends, Joyce Linscott and Marie Case
were by her side.
She is survived by a stepson, Barry McKinnon (Becky) of Washington; 3
step grandchildren; and one great step grandchild; cousins Jerry Neal
(Phyllis) of Ohio; and Gilbert Neal (Erin) of New York. She is also
survived by several other cousins, nieces and nephews. Her husband Merrill
(Mac) McKinnon; parents, Carlton and Amanda Mullins Neal; brothers, Lee,
Charles, Walter Gilbert and Richard Neal; and sisters Agnes Zimmerman and
Harriet Salsgiver preceded her in death.
Abbie was born in Brookfield, PA on April 4, 1918. She was a National
Champion Women's Fiddler and winner on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts
program in New York City. She formed Abbie Neal and Her Ranch Girls
in the 40's.
In the 50's she starred in her own TV shows on WJAC-TV in Johnstown, PA
and the Wilkins Easy Credit Show on WDTV in Pittsburgh, PA.
She donated time
to entertain our troops in Vietnam through the USO tours. She was a
multi-instrumentalist, who excelled on the steel guitar and fiddle.
She was born with what musicians call a "true pitch ear" - the ability
to hear correct notes without reading music, but she did read music.
She learned the basics of music from an older brother, Walter, at the
age of 7, playing duets with him at churches and Grange Halls. At 10, she was
in a fiddle contest and won. She studied violin and as a teenager played with
the DuBois Symphony. After 2 years of classical music, the lure of "fiddling"
became so strong that she joined Cowboy Phil and his band on radio WHJB in
Greensburg and remained for 13 years before landing on TV in Pittsburgh.
Abbie was one of the first TV stars in Pittsburgh and also was in demand
on the Jamboree USA in Wheeling, W. Virginia. She received a Star in the
Walkway of Stars in 1983 for her major contribution to Jamboree USA and
country music. Her band also did a stint on WAMO in Johnsville before
coming west where she moved on to the Nevada Circuit, performing at
Harrah's, the Holiday, Riverside, and the Mapes Hotels in Reno, plus
venues in Elko and Las Vegas.
After years of performing, she ended her career at the Golden Nugget in
Las Vegas in 1975. After her retirement, she and several other retired
musicians continued to entertain senior citizens at convalescent facilities,
hospitals, and senior centers in the Truckee Meadows.
Lou Christie, a performer and star, made this quote: "I think Abbie Neal
was a true pioneer in country & western music; a woman who walked the
path with the great Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline and Rose Maddox."
A memorial will be held on Tuesday, February 24, 2004, at 11:00 a.m. at the First Congregational Church, 627 Sunnyside Dr., Reno, NV. Rev. Bill Chrystal will be officiating. In lieu of flowers, make contributions to a charity of your choice in Abbie's memory, however, her favorite charity is the "Make A Wish Foundation" for children.
Another memorial will be held in Brookfield, PA at a later date.
Arrangements entrusted to Mountain View Mortuary.
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