GALLIPOLIS — As the news of the sudden death of Gallia County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lorie (Falls) Neal continued to spread across Gallia and surrounding counties Thursday, the outpouring of love for Neal, as well as the overwhelming support for her friends and family during such a loss, only emphasized what this dedicated advocate for local business so loved about the tight-knit communities that she served.
Neal, age 40, passed away unexpectedly after suddenly falling ill at her workplace Wednesday morning, and the loss is palpable in Gallipolis where she had served as the Chamber Director since July 2000.
“The city and county have lost a true ambassador for this area. Lorie always was looking for ways to improve our community and spent many hours organizing events that benefited all of us,” said Gallipolis City Manager Randy Finney. “She worked with businesses to make sure they had the proper resources to be successful, and she recognized their achievements.
“I think of all the activities and programs that she organized and planned that will need to be carried on. That will not be an easy task. She wanted the best for the City of Gallipolis and for Gallia County, and she will be remembered for making this area a better place to live. Lorie will be truly missed,” added Finney.
Local businessman Bryan Blair, co-founder of Nybble Café and current CEO of SocialBoaster, said Neal was instrumental in the success of Nybble when it opened in October 2012 in Gallipolis and served as a constant support for local business, in general.
“Lorie was a tremendous asset to the development of our business initiatives all around. When we were contemplating the idea of a café downtown, Lorie was there with open arms. She reached out to us and invited us to attend a Business Resource Luncheon before we had even gone public with our idea,” said Blair. “She wanted me to see exactly what Gallipolis had to offer — everything from a tour of the park and downtown, to a tour of the Chamber offices, where ‘If I needed anything at all, I could just come right in.’ Not only was she doing her job as director of the Chamber, she was engaging with us on a personal level, too.
“That was the kind of character she had. She wanted us to succeed because she wanted Gallipolis to succeed. She wanted to build a relationship with us and other business owners that revolved around each other, showing us that if we worked together, we could all be successful,” added Blair.
Blair said Neal continued to support Nybble long after it was off the ground and taking flight.
“She frequently came into the café, often taking pictures of her lunch or dinner with her son and sharing them through the Chamber’s Facebook page, as a way to help build our name and get the community engaged in new business. As an ‘out-of-towner’ moving into the community and building a new business, I couldn’t have asked for a better ‘first contact’ in the area,” said Blair. “She helped me get things in order, consistently contacted me to ensure we had everything we needed to turn the lights on, fire up the kitchen and get the ribbon cut for our guests to arrive.
“Even after I stepped out of daily operations at Nybble and started a couple of other small businesses, her guidance never ended. She was always there with an answer to any question — or quick to find one from a trusted source — and always, always, had a smile on her face,” recalled Blair. “The amount of dedication and support she had for businesses in our region is unrivaled. There is no better advocate for new business than Lorie. As I go on and continue my entrepreneurial efforts, the knowledge, connections and ‘go for it’ attitude that Lorie instilled within me will forever be downloaded in my memory.”
Still, for as much as the community loved Neal for her many accomplishments through her role at the Chamber, all who knew her recognized and respected her most for her love and dedication to her family and friends. Neal grew up in Reedsville in neighboring Meigs County, attended Eastern High School and then the University of Rio Grande, where she joined the Alpha Mu Beta sorority.
Her “sisters” are still reeling from the news, and messages of love and condolence continue to fill the Facebook news feeds of everyone connected to Neal online.
“I don’t even know what to say after this extremely sad day. I’m at a loss,” said Rebecca Hamilton on Wednesday evening via Facebook. “I just know the world is suddenly altered, for it’s lost a truly beautiful soul. I don’t know how to say goodbye to my phenomenal friend, Lorie Falls Neal. She was not only my friend but my confidant, my protector, and my Big Sis. My heart goes out to [son] Trace, [fiancé] Robbie, the rest of her family, her friends, Angie and the Sisters of Alpha Mu Beta.”
For a woman who filled so many roles so well, who brightened every room she entered, her most important role was also where she shined the brightest … as the loving and dedicated mom of 11-year-old Trace.
“She loved Gallipolis and Gallia County. She loved serving our community, and she did outstanding, unparalleled work for the Chamber,” said longtime Gallia County Chamber of Commerce coworker Marianne Campbell. “Most importantly, though, she loved that boy. Trace meant everything to her. He was her world, and nothing made her more happy or proud than to be his mom.”
Neal’s obituary can be found inside the Friday edition of The Gallipolis Daily Tribune. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in her memory to the Trace Tyler Neal Fund, sent or delivered to: The Ohio Valley Banking Company, 420 Third Avenue, Gallipolis, Ohio 45631.