Community remembers McNeill as hardworking, bigger than life
A stunned public reacted to the Sept. 8 death of state Rep. Daniel McNeill, D-133rd, many of them unaware the 70-year-old Hokendauqua resident had been battling cancer, as he had carried out his work without interruption and with determination and a smile.
Whitehall Township Mayor Edward D. Hozza Jr. said, on learning of McNeill’s passing, “Danny was the ultimate ‘fighter’ for the people, whether it was for Whitehall Township or the entire Lehigh Valley. Danny’s tireless efforts to make his constituents aware and educated about the opioid crisis and his constituent services assisting countless people of the 133rd District will not be forgotten.
McNeill served as Whitehall Township executive before being elected to the serve the 133rd Legislative District, which consists of a part of Whitehall Township; the boroughs of Coplay, Catasauqua and Fountain Hill; Hanover Township, Lehigh County; and parts of Salisbury Township and the City of Bethlehem.
“Danny and I were together last Tuesday,” Hozza said. “Never would I imagine that would be the last time we would speak to my predecessor and share a laugh. Well done, good and faithful servant.”
A viewing for McNeill is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. Sept. 13 at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3355 MacArthur Road.
Visitation with family will be 10-10:45 a.m. Sept. 14 in the Gathering Place at the church. The funeral service will follow 11 a.m., with the Rev. Dr. Edward Santana-Grace officiating. Interment will be at Arlington Memorial Park, Whitehall. Gilbert Funeral Home of Whitehall is handling the arrangements.
Dominick Galluzzo, owner of Palace Pizza, Hokendauqua, was a close friend of McNeill’s.
“Dan and I were best friends for at least 25 years,” he said. “I am now all alone. First Bobby (Magisterial District Judge Robert Halal) died, now Dan.
“He always had a smile — a big smile — on his face. He made you laugh. The family came here to my restaurant,” Galluzzo said. “He had his campaigns here. Dan liked helping people. He was bigger than life.”
Francis J. Bilder Sr., officer and firefighter at the Hokendauqua Fire Station echoed those sentiments.
“Dan was a great guy and a good friend, He supported the Whitehall Fire Department 100 percent,” he said. “He helped Hokey Fire Station to secure grants to help build the new fire station.”
Phillips Armstrong, Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners president, also offered his condolences.
“Our community lost a hardworking state representative,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.
House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) issued a joint statement Sept. 8.
“Losing Dan is a terrible blow for his wife Jeanne, and his daughters and granddaughter. All of his family and friends have our deepest sympathy. It’s also a loss for the House of Representatives. Dan was a wonderful lawmaker, and we’re going to miss him a lot.
“You always knew where Dan stood because he wasn’t shy about telling you. All of us in the House appreciated Dan’s plainspoken style, and we respected his devotion to the people he represented, as seen in his work to fight the opioid and heroin epidemic.
“For some time now, Dan had bravely faced serious health challenges but he made a point of coming to Harrisburg faithfully, as well as working in his district, even on days when he was not feeling well.
“Dan McNeill was a loving family man, a proud Ironworker and a public servant in local and county positions before his election to the House.
“All of our thoughts and prayers are with Rep. McNeill’s family and friends at this difficult time.”