All fired up
Former firefighter Sylvester Neal ignites the flames of service as Kiwanis International president. Story and photos by Jack Brockley
out, and Sylvester Neal, star defensive back and senior at Stephen F. Austin High School, hops on a city bus for his commute home. He finds a seat, leans back and relaxes. another day in the life of a Texas teenager. Yet this ordinary day in 1962 is destined to be one of the most important days in life? a disastrous, miraculous day. someone calls out, and the passengers gawk through their windows as a smudged exclamation point rises above the Austin, Texas, skyline. looks Neal thinks. it in my neighborhood? Whose place could it When the bus reaches his stop, the horrific scene of a house fully engulfed in flames answers his questions. my A flood of new questions rush into his mind: sister came home early today. Is she OK? What about all our His sister was safe, but the Neals lost everything. Syl, however, gained everything. was standing in a yard and watching the firemen? people who even know us?trying to save our says Neal, nearly 50 years later. knew right then, what I wanted to do. I wanted to put on cape, rush into burning buildings and save little It was more than a career-defining moment. It was a life-defining moment that has influenced his role as a husband, father and, for the past 30 years, as a Kiwanian. Starting October 1, it will influence us all when Neal begins his term as Kiwanis president. As a former firefighter, Sylvester Neal teaches grandsons Victor and Todd to respect the benefits and dangers of fire. As president, asking Kiwanians worldwide to build bonfires of passion for service.
someone calls out. looks