Courtenay panhandler remembered for kindness, politeness

He was known to some as Rocky. Others called him Rock Star.

MAYOR LARRY JANGULA was one of many people who spoke at a memorial service for Rod (Rocky) Neil.

MAYOR LARRY JANGULA was one of many people who spoke at a memorial service for Rod (Rocky) Neil.

He was known to some as Rocky. Others called him Rock Star.

His real name was Rod Neil, who frequented the busy corner of Sixth and England in Courtenay in search of spare change without impeding the path of pedestrians.

Rod died Aug. 24 outside Superstore. He was 59.

A candlelight vigil was held in his memory Thursday at Peace Park across from the Courtenay courthouse.

“Rod would have been so proud,” said Heather Parry, one of his four siblings. “That was a really nice turnout for Rod. He would have been so touched and so proud.”

Parry said her brother was a “character,” recalling how the two of them got into mischief while growing up in Courtenay.

“Rod was a really good brother. He really cared about people. He had the hardest life you could have.”

Jeff Hampton remembers Rod from their days together in elementary school.

“He knew everybody in the old neighbourhood,” Hampton said. “I’m going to miss him definitely.”

Parry noted how people would buy food for her brother, or donate gift certificates to Subway and other eateries.

“As you know he was a kind man,” said Rhonda Billie of Cold Weather Outreach. “He always had love, always had friendship. He was a friend to all.”

Mayor Larry Jangula, a former watch commander for the RCMP, shared memories of Rod dating back 30 years.

“He used to hang around the A&W a lot,” said Jangula, referring to Rod as an “honest panhandler” who would refuse food if his tummy was full. But if he accepted a hamburger or cinnamon bun, he would invariably say it was his favourite.

“He brought out a lot of kindness,” said Jangula, recalling Rod’s politeness.

“He was always here on the corner,” said Bob Waters, who helped organize Thursday’s vigil. “I’ve known him for about 15 years, 20 years. I used to help him with clothes and what have you. Over the years I’ve just grown to like the guy.”

Money that was placed in the hat at the vigil has helped Cold Weather Outreach purchase flowers and socks. Rocky Socks will be donated to those in need.

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