Inducted: November 28, 1998
Neil McGeachy has worked all of his life to benefit his community, agriculturally, socially and educationally. He has grown and produced almost everything possible in this fertile area of Southwestern Ontario; and has been a Director or a member, or both, of a lengthy list of organizations devoted to the improvement of farming and the community.
A native of Harwich, Mr. McGeachy is the son of John Alexander McGeachy and Agnes Isabelle Wilson. His father died when he was just 12, a tragedy that had a profound influence on his son. The little family--Mrs. McGeachy, Neil and his sister Edith, were able to weather the balance of the depression and World War II because of the strength of Mrs. McGeachy, and the solid support of her brothers, G. Harry Wilson (inducted into the Kent County Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1989) and Robert Wilson.
Neil attended S. S. 1, Harwich Township, then went on to Chatham Collegiate Institute and Chatham; Vocational School. His formal education ended when he was 16, when he became a full-time farmer. He was, according to one good friend, "pretty young to get into the harness". He got his education, according to another association, "from the people he met".
Eventually Mr. McGeachy was involved with almost every facet of farming. In the early years, there were sheep, ducks and chickens. He was a dairy man, his surplus milk going to Silverwood's Dairy in those early years. His farm endeavours included beef cattle, tomatoes and other canning crops, seed corn, soybeans, tobacco and sugar beets. He was deeply involved, and at his vigorous best, in the unsuccessful battle to keep Chatham's sugar beet refinery open in 1967.
Mr. McGeachy devoted time and effort to Co-operatives, locally, provincially and nationally....as a past Director of United Co-operatives of Ontario in Kent; U.C.O. of Ontario and a member of the Co-op Union of Canada.
A friend credits him with "a depth of common sense knowledge that really is amazing." This was put to good use with many agricultural and community organizations.
Mr. McGeachy's curtailed schooling did not diminish his interest in providing the best education possible for young people in Kent and beyond. At the basic level, he served as a Trustee of S. S. 1, Harwich Township; at post-secondary level, he was Building Chairman in 1975 for the Thames Campus of St. Clair College.
Mr. McGeachy was active for many years in St. Andrew's Church, as an Elder and Trustee. He, Tom Campbell and Jack Shillington were responsible for the construction of St. Andrew's Residence for Senior Citizens. He was President of the McGeachy Charitable Foundation, making wise decisions on the disposition of the estate of his uncle, W. A. McGeachy. This had a ripple effect in benefiting the entire community.
Mr. McGeachy has also served as a Trustee of the Fairfield Museum; and had been associated with the Provincial Alcohol and Drug Awareness Program. He was Vice-Chairman of the YMCA Foundation; and an active member of the Agriculture Committee of the Chatham and District Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber honoured him in 1993 by naming him "Agriculturist of the Year".
His work with the Provincial Agricultural Manpower Board resulted in an interesting project in which he, and his wonderful wife, Jane, were deeply involved.
The McGeachys brought agricultural students from other countries to Kent, to learn about Canadian agriculture on a progressive farm. They included young men from England, Ireland, Finland and Jamaica, who were given the freedom of the McGeachy home, and who have kept in touch with their Canadian hosts.
Mr. McGeachy was granted an Honorary Diploma from St. Clair College in 1998, in recognition of his substantial contributions to the community and to the college.
He, and the former Jane Allison Ronson, were married in St. Andrew's United Church in Chatham in 1957. They have three children: Scott (Sheila) on the family farm in Harwich; Lynn, Harwich (kinesiologist at the Children's Treatment Centre, Chatham); and Susan (Bill Foran), Kent Bridge (Fanshawe College in Early Childhood Education). There are six grandchildren: Katie, Lauren and Ryan McGeachy; Kent and Meghan Schultz; and Allison Foran.
A good friend said one of Mr. McGeachy's best traits is his real sense of urgency: "when he starts something, he wants to get it done. He has called me, at times, at 7 in the morning to hurry something along. He's like a bulldog--he never lets go!"
He is also "very kind-hearted"; "has a wonderful sense of humour" and is always interested in his community and agriculture.