Several of you have requested that we share the text of the eulogy and homily from Kevin’s funeral mass service on February 25, 2023. In addition, the mass was recorded and can be streamed here. The service begins at 41:00 into the recorded livestream.
Homily – Fr. Kevin Nadolski, OSFS
By way of introduction, my name is Kevin Nadolski, OSFS, and I am a priest with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales living and working at DeSales University, outside of Allentown, PA. But perhaps more importantly today, I am—like us all—a friend of Kevin Neary. We became friends in 1997, when Kevin was a sophomore at Salesianum School, and I was a newly ordained priest assigned to work there. Thankfully, we have been friends ever since, for more than 25 years.
On behalf of Fr. McDermott and this St. John Fisher Parish community, as well as the Salesianum School community who loved Kevin and Kevin loved so much, I extend to you Joe, JP, and Christopher, and your wives, Olivia and Lindsey, and your boys, our heartfelt condolences and assurance of prayers. Your love for Kevin, evident in your heroically selfless care—especially you, Joe—is an example and inspiration of what love really means. We are sad with you, and we are grateful for you.
More than 40 years ago Marian and Joe Neary brought their recently born second son, Kevin Francis to be baptized in the church. Through church, and later at Salesianum, and most especially in your home, Joe, Kevin learned our great faith. He learned how to live Jesus, how to care and forgive, and how to be a man of justice and gentleness, of humility and humor. In those few minutes more than four decades ago and the years since, when you, Joe, and your beloved Marian, baptized Kevin you imprinted him for all eternity with the life of Jesus. Into Jesus’ life, into his suffering, and into his death, and most especially into his resurrection: Kevin Neary lives forever!
It’s true that Kevin wasn’t the most outwardly religious person. From his days at Salesianum jabbing me about my sports teams to his final days predicting the future of now-former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s career, Kevin preferred less spiritual topics for our conversations. Yet, his robust spirit always seemed sustained by an amazing grace that could be traced to his love for his family, especially his Mom and Dad and his brothers and their families. His spirit was also evident in his earthy sense of right from wrong; his strong confidence that as a adolescent led him to start college at the University of Miami—I think just because he liked their football team, of course. And, he possessed a deep courage that would let him to risk to love—and, when it mattered most, a courage to risk to live, even when he didn’t want to. Here, Kevin lived Jesus most profoundly. Like Jesus, into whose cross he was baptized, and through whose resurrection he now lives forever, Kevin did not seek be anyone other than who he was. As he would often quote Francis de Sales to me: “Be who you are and be that well.” Kevin did just that: With color and verve, with his hooped earrings and slightly open-mouthed smile, with his undying hankering for a glass of good red wine or a generous taste of gin, Kevin was just who he was, and he was that really, really well.
The closing words of that statement by Francis de Sales that Kevin liked to quote so much are instructive for us today. They also tell us a tremendous deal about Kevin himself. “Be who you are and be that well,” DeSales says. But he goes on: “to give honor and glory to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork you are.”
Kevin, and each one of us, are the handiwork of our loving God. And, Kevin was also a piece of work. He probably gambled too much, could have gone to church a little more, and watched a little less sports. But, somehow all of this added to his charm. And, charm he had in buckets!
Among the indignities and injustices that emerged from the evil and violence that left Kevin so disabled is one that we could be tempted to consider today: That Kevin’s being a victim of gun violence color how we remember and celebrate him. We cannot do this. Let’s resolve not to, for Kevin’s life was so much more than being a victim. He was an uncle in love with his nephews, even when pinched by moments of sadness as he realized that he would never have children of his own. He was a loving son who never forgot the beauty and impact his late mother had on his life. He was an ongoing student of history and politics who would talk well about everything right and wrong with our world and society. And, of course, he knew more about sports than Joe Buck, Tony Romo, Stephen Smith, Howard, Eskin, and Angelo Cataldi combined! What’s more, he was passionate about his friendships and relationships. At his recent 40th surprise birthday party, he exclaimed, “Almost everyone is from out of town.” To which a few of us responded, “Well, we love you, Kevin.” And, with a nod and a whisper and that open-mouthed smile, he said, “And, I love you, too.”
Kevin’s most visible cross carried over the last 12 years cannot be the final word on his life. Just like the cross was not the final word on the life of Jesus, his God. Jesus’ resurrection overcame the power of his suffering and death. As the second reading told us: “The word of God is not chained.” And, Kevin taught us this in his choosing life over the pain of huge grief after his Mom’s premature death or his deliberately choosing joy after his romances would end or his hope after his future plans were dashed. Kevin was a man of gentleness and joy and hope whose life showed us way more resurrection that it ever did the cross, despite his ability to carry whichever cross came his way. It is the resurrection that defines Kevin’s life and our lives, too. And, his life, in the words of the gospel, “carried the news of the resurrection.” Our God pulls us up into the fullness of life, just like God lifted Kevin out of his broken body on Monday to a new and eternal life with his mother and our Father who art in heaven. Kevin can now run like those women in the Gospel. He can lift his own arms to embrace his mother, Marian. And, he can feed himself at the Eternal Banquet in heaven. Today, Jesus words, “Do not be afraid,” have new meaning for all of us.
I think his smile and those eyes that looked like he was reading poetry to us exuded an optimism that might have been at the root of all those bad bets he made and those casino trips he loved with his bestie Leon. The most poignant experience of optimism I may have ever experienced was just days after Kevin was shot. Joe and Kevin’s brothers went into the ICU room to discuss what the doctors had reported about the severe physical limitations of the rest of Kevin’s life. I happened to enter his room right after they left. It was clear that Kevin was crying, his head to the side of the wet pillow, and tears still streaming. Kevin said softly, “I hope some good comes from this.”
When Jesus was on his cross, he said few words, too. And, like Kevin, Jesus’ words were of hope and goodness and forgiveness and humanity and prayer. And, when Jesus was on his cross, he had his mother right there with him, suffering and praying and dying alongside him.
Joe, we would be remiss if we didn’t turn to you to acclaim the care, sacrifice, frustration, anger, sadness, and solid love you have carried as Kevin’s caretaker over the past 12 years. You would frequently remark how Marian would have done it better. Well, Joe, your labor pains of the past 11 years that you have spent giving Kevin birth into his new life in heaven were real. And, your ability to endure them, with grace and prayer, humor and perspective, and remain faithful and faith-filled is a testament to your marriage with Marian and the three sons you raised together. You showed us and Kevin the face of Jesus like we have never seen before. The love you gave him prepared him so well for the fullness of love he now experiences.
And, so we give thanks for life of Kevin Francis Neary. A man whose optimism and goodness, whose joy and gentleness unfold into the majesty and mystery of a Christian returning home, free of pain and frustration, fully independent and fully the man he was called to be and be that well. And, most importantly, he has risen above the cross of this life into the resurrection that brings him to live, forever and ever. AMEN.
Eulogy – Chris Neary
Good morning, everyone. On behalf of the entire Neary family, thank you so much for being here to grieve with us, to remember with us, and most importantly, to celebrate the life of our brother, our son, our friend, Kevin Neary.
We also want to invite you to join us at Ogden Fire Company after the burial to share memories about Kevin over food and drink.
Before we begin the mass, I wanted to share a few words about Kevin.
Of course, a few minutes of reflection can’t come anywhere close to capturing Kevin. His one-of-a-kind personality. His outsize presence in a room. His knack for cracking an inappropriate joke at just the right time. His sense of style. His swagger. His mischievous nature. His effortless charm. His intelligence. His drive and determination. His relentlessly positive attitude. Or, above all, his genuine and unwavering concern for others.
Being Kevin’s brother, I’ve heard countless stories about Kevin and what he means to each and every one of you. And I’ve seen the unfailingly positive impact he had on the lives of everyone in this room and so many more who can’t be with us today.
I can’t capture all of that here. But I was fortunate to know Kevin my entire life, and I can say a few words about what Kevin meant to me as my brother and one of my best friends.
I’ve always felt lucky to have two big brothers. From the time I was born, JP and Kevin were there to guide me.
Kevin was just two years older than me, so we spent a lot of time together. Playing pickup basketball, football, and whiffleball in the neighborhood. Wreaking havoc and throwing the ball around the house (sorry, Dad). Watching buddy comedies like Tommy Boy over and over again, or – Kevin’s favorite – a really good romcom.
Growing up, I was a nerdy kid with thick glasses and thin skin. Without Kevin, I would have been lost. He made sure I was included, and he protected me from the bullies. And that extended to our time at Sallies when I started at a new school without any friends, all of a sudden adjusting from public school to a rigorous all-boys Catholic high school. Kevin took care to show me the ropes and look out for me, even if it didn’t make him any cooler.
You could chalk that up to Kevin just being a good big brother. But I think it speaks to who Kevin was – that his life was about more than just his own dreams, his goals, his ambitions. Just as important, it was about taking care of those he loved.
If you know Kevin, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Kevin picking up the check at dinner when you’re not looking, and then tipping 200 percent because he knew what it was like being a server. Or showing up for your kid’s game when you least expected it. Or getting a phone call from him when you needed it most, even though you didn’t know that’s what you needed.
Kevin loved taking care of his people. And it gave him so much joy and energy.
Kevin was known for being the life of the party and lighting up any room he walked into. (I know that if Kevin could right now, this is where he’d stop me, crack a big grin and say, “Christopher, I think you meant say, “rolled into.”)
But while Kevin would light up a room, it’s also true that you lit him up. No matter how hard things got, his day would turn around when someone came to visit. Being with you put Kevin in his element.
Now, Kevin would often say that he did not want to be defined by his injury. It’s no surprise that, like most goals Kevin set in life, he was wildly successful on this front. His circumstances did not define him. His love for all of you is what defined him. The joy that he brought into our lives defined him. His remarkable resilience defined him. His positivity and hope for the future defined him.
That’s not to say that becoming quadriplegic didn’t change him. Kevin was always fiercely independent. He never wanted anyone’s help and took great pride in what he was able to accomplish on his own.
But with Kevin’s injury, there was a new reality. There were new limitations and new challenges. And he had to learn to accept the help he needed. As a result of that openness and that growth, Kevin formed great bonds and friendships with those who helped with his care. So many of these nurses, doctors, and aides have told me, with no hesitation, that he was their favorite.
It’s no wonder. When I was growing up, I always marveled at Kevin’s effortless ability to form quick connections with people. It was uncanny. I’d often wonder what his secret was. Was it his sense of humor? His charm? His intelligence and his ability to talk about almost any topic?
It was only as I grew up that I realized that, yes, all of these things played a role. But, the root of it was very simple: Kevin genuinely cared about you. He really wanted to know what was going on in your life. And people could tell right away: Kevin Neary was a good man.
We are all deeply sad that that good man is now gone. For me, it is hard to fathom losing such a massive presence in my life. Right now, I am missing the little things. I wish we could talk about the Phillies’ roster moves, spring training, and if they’ll get another shot at the World Series. I wish we could rehash the Super Bowl. I wish we could set up a killer parlay. I wish we could talk about what his little guy Logan and his nephews were up to.
I won’t ever get those little things back. But my hope – and my goal – is for Kevin’s spirit to stay with me. And that I will let him inspire me to make someone else’s day better, even on my worst days.
Kevin always told me he didn’t understand why people said he’s an inspiration. “I’m just a guy who happens to be quadriplegic,” he would say. But Kevin was an inspiration to me, long before his injury. He was my protector. He was my friend. He was always there for me, and everyone in this room.
And he will always be there for us. Because he showed us how to draw strength from others in our hardest moments. How to have a lot of fun, no matter what life throws at you. And how a life of selflessness leads to great joy, for both us and the people we meet along the way.
Kevin, I love you. I am glad that you are no longer in pain. I am glad that you are back with mom. And I am grateful for the example you set – for me and for everyone whose lives you touched.