Before Neal Smiley becomes grand marshal for this year's Grand Old Fourth of July Parade on Wednesday in Pasco, he will be flipping pancakes at the Kiwanis Club breakfast at Memorial Park.
"I've been flipping those pancakes for the Pasco Kiwanis for 50 years. I can't stop now," he joked.
But he will make sure he takes his apron off when it comes time to do his duty as grand marshal.
The parade starts at 10 a.m. at the corner of Third Avenue and Marie Street, travels down Fourth Avenue, turns right on Sylvester Street, then left on 14th Avenue and ends at Memorial Park.
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Anyone who knows this lively 85-year-old knows if there is a community event happening in his beloved Pasco, he is sure to be there helping out.
"Like most community-minded doers, Neal does not seek the limelight," said Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins. "He just volunteers, does what needs to be done, and has made Pasco a better place to live as a result."
Though Smiley's deeply honored to be asked to be grand marshal for the parade, he said he feels a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight.
He has been a tireless community volunteer since he moved to the area in 1955 from Kellogg, Idaho, with his wife Joyce and their four children.
Smiley spent the better part of those years as an insurance agent with Dunning Ray, now Conover Insurance, on Lewis Street. He retired two years ago.
But Smiley doesn't seem to know the true meaning of the word retirement, his wife says.
And though the couple spends part of the winter in Hawaii and make frequent trips to their home on Lake Couer 'd Alene, Smiley has his feet firmly planted in Pasco.
"He's as busy as he's always been," his wife said. "Even though he's now retired, he won't even think about ever leaving Pasco."
He is a member of the Kiwanis Club, Pasco Chamber of Commerce, was past president of the Benton-Franklin Humane Society, spent two terms as president of the Tri-City Visitors and Convention Bureau, served on several committees with the Pasco School District, Pasco City Planning Commission, was chairman of the March of Dimes for Franklin County, was a volunteer for Franklin County Boundary Review Board, and continues to staunchly support school bond issues.
"Education has always been very important to Neal," Joyce Smiley said. He graduated from the University of Idaho, and so did his children and six of his grandchildren.
Most of their children and grandchildren live in the Mid-Columbia area and Spokane, which keeps the Smileys from drifting too far, for too long, from home.
They have 15 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. One of those grandkids is Sgt. Scottie Smiley, who has become well-known after his true-life book, Hope Unseen, was published. The book talks about his life after losing his eyesight in a bomb explosion in Iraq.
Smiley is as proud of his grandson as he is of Pasco. He also says he rarely worries about stuff. His only regret in life is not having his father around during much of his childhood.
"I lost my father way too young," he said. "He died when I was about 12 years old. But I remember how involved with the community of Kellogg he was back then, and I admired that."
The Smileys will celebrate 60 years of marriage July 4. They plan to have a barbecue with their family after the parade, then head for Gesa Stadium for the big fireworks show at dusk.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org