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Brenda B. McNeil

April 24, 1944 July 8, 2015
Brenda B. McNeil
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Obituary for Brenda B. McNeil

Born in rural central Pennsylvania and raised in a house without running water, Brenda B. McNeil arrived in the Chicago area in 1969 to coach girls tennis and field hockey at Morgan Park Academy. Still known then by her maiden name, Brenda Joyce Brown, she was a couple years out of Penn State and brought with her several state high school championships from Delaware, where she taught and coached for three years at Wilmington's Tower Hill School. Ms. Brown -- or Ms. BJB, as she was also known -- quickly became a student favorite at the South Side private school. "Miss Brown," one student wrote in Brenda's 1970 yearbook, "there are only a few words to describe you. Fantastic, marvelous stupendous ... and many more." She built highly competitive tennis and hockey programs at Morgan Park before leaving teaching in the early 1970s to start a family. Settling in south suburban Palos Park, Brenda transitioned into a career in financial planning and sales. She later helped launch the Chicago area offices of A.L. Williams & Associates, and for more than a decade worked in commission sales positions in the insurance and financial services industries. A former varsity softball player at Penn State, Brenda coached youth tee-ball, baseball, soccer and tennis while living in Palos Park and was a key organizer of the village's first organized youth soccer league. She also volunteered as a park district tennis instructor. Her softball career was effectively ended by a broken finger suffered during a Palos Hills 16-inch game during the early 1980s but she continued to play tennis into her 50s, when she injured her elbow during an overhead smash in a game against her 20-something nephew. As a young woman, Brenda was a regular horseback and motorcycle rider and for a time during the early 2000s commuted to work in Forest Park on a black Honda scooter. Behind the wheel, she had a lead foot and a taste for sports cars. As a young teacher, she traded a Ford Mustang on an Austin-Healy Bugeye Sprite, and later collected three traffic tickets during the first week she owned a Datsun 240Z. Brenda divorced in 1986 and moved to the Oak Park area a short time later, eventually living for several years in an apartment near Scoville Park. She was at that time a morning regular at the long-defunct Oak Park Avenue diner Jamie's, and when that restaurant closed moved on to George's. She was also a frequent visitor to the old wood-paneled front bar at Winberie's, where she cheered on the Bulls while drinking a bottle or two of raspberry-flavored Original New York Seltzer water and wearing a very pink satin Bulls ball cap. More recently, Brenda had established herself as a breakfast regular at Al's Grill on Madison Street and her Chicago sports enthusiasms, always strong and well-informed, centered on the White Sox and Blackhawks. She watched the 2015 Cup-clinching game with her son and daughter-in-law at Fitzgerald's and in May attended the retirement ceremonies for Paul Konerko's number at Sox Park. After arriving in Oak Park, Brenda began working as a loan officer for a Hinsdale-based residential mortgage brokerage, and after learning the trade she took a position managing a Westchester office for an upstart mortgage broker operation. In the early 1990s, she obtained her own brokerage license and went to work for herself. Operating from home -- first from the Scoville Park-area apartment and later a North Boulevard condominium -- she met most of her clients at a booth inside George's, and staffers at the restaurant regularly took calls and messages on her behalf. In the mid-1990s, she opened an office for McNeil Financial Group, Inc. on Lake Street and soon moved to offices on Circle Avenue in Forest Park. Brenda eventually operated from offices inside a commercial building she purchased on Madison Street in Forest Park. From the late 1990s to her retirement in 2008, Brenda employed dozens of loan officers, including her sister and close friend, Priscilla Bruce, and at different times opened satellite offices in Chicago, Lake in the Hills, and the south suburbs. She also put two sons through college. Brenda was an active member of Oak Park's Biznet organization for small business owners, and she was a vocal advocate for the mortgage brokerage industry though several statewide organizations. Visitors to Brenda's offices in the early 2000s were likely to find her mother, Anne A. Brown, sitting on a couch and passing the day with her daughters. McNeil Financial had a decidedly family vibe. Brenda supported her mother late in her life and especially as she suffered increasingly debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer's. Brenda also helped support her sister, Priscilla, and the two developed an intense personal bond. They drove matching Volvos, wore similar jackets, used the same kind of Cross ballpoint pen, and could usually be found in one another's company: Peas of a pod. When Priscilla was diagnosed early this year with congestive heart failure, Brenda served as her principal nurse and aide for several months while Priscilla prepped for open-heart surgery. While doctors were hopeful about the outcome of that surgery, it was not a success and Priscilla died from complications at West Suburban Hospital in March. Brenda subsequently spoke often of the pain she felt in losing her sister, and on the night of July 8, two weeks after returning from Priscilla's memorial service in Pennsylvania, Brenda died of a heart attack inside her Forest Park home. She was 71. Brenda is survived by two sons, Timothy and Brett (Lindsay); by two sisters; and five nieces and nephews. A memorial service for Brenda B. McNeil will be held Sunday, Aug. 16 inside Cheney Mansion, 220 N. Euclid Ave. in Oak Park. An open house will take place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and the service will begin at 5 p.m. A reception will follow at the Oak Park home of Brett McNeil and Lindsay Koriath. For information about the service or to contact the family, please write to


Sunday, August 16�� 5 p.m.��

Cheney Mansion 220 N. Euclid Ave., Oak Park��


Sunday, August 16�� 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.��

Cheney Mansion 220 N. Euclid Ave., Oak Park��

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