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1 Last Mac for Tom Neill

Posted on Mon, Jul 26, 2010 @ 11:07 AM

Tom Neill of Neill Cartage and Warehouse instructs his crew where is leave his ashes. This was an article in the Chicago Sun Times Saturday July 24th 2010. 

When sailor died last summer, he instructed his crew to leave his ashes:

Not even death could stop Tom Neill from sailing one last Mac.

Before he died of lung cancer at the age of 60 last August, Neill left a request in his will to his crew: Sail my boat in one last race - and deliver my cremated remains to the bottom of Lake Michigan.

The exact coordinates of his final spot: a buoy known as Can 3, where boats in the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac Inland, Mich., race, which started Saturday, make their turn towards the finish line.

"Several other sailors are out there under the waved," said crew member Bill Faude. "and Tom would say, 'There's gonna be a heck of a party at the bottom of the Lake at Can 3.  If enough of us olf geezers get spread there - it's going to form a reef, and boats are going to run aground.'"

Neill, whose outsize personality was often accessorized with a cigar and a can of Miller Lite, had one other fleeting concern according to his wife Amy: "He wanted to make sure no one flushed him down the head."

"If you didn't know him, you knew of him," said crew member Pat Considine.  "He had as much fun as he could.  One adventure after another."

Claiming to be unsure of the legality of sending Neill's remains to the deep, Faude chuckled as he refused to confirm details, saying "I can neither confirm nor deny the plan - or that there might be ordnance exploded at Can 3 - or that Miller Lite might get spread on the waves.

"Let me be clear, though: No one is stopping the boat at Can 3.  He would be livid if it slows us down.  It will be a solemn occasion at warp speed - because we're going to try and win this thing for Tom."

The need for speed was reinforced by a phone call Faude received minutes after the beginning of last year's race.

"Its was Tom, he was in hospice care at home and watching us from the window of his condo," said Faude.  "He said, 'You guys are off to a great start.  Don't mess up for at least another hour - by then the boat will be out of sight.'"

This year Neill, going on his 37th Mac, invited extra crew members because they are family, Amy Neill said.

And if things go right his ashes should go overboard this afternoon, as his 68-foot "Dodge Viper red" sailboat dubbed Nitemare races to the finish.

After the race, the Nitemare will be sold to a man from San Diego, its crew disbanded.

"It's sad because the tribe he brought together and nourished is ending," said Faude.  "But in the winter, the lake freezes up there, and Tom's resting spot is only about 10 miles offshore.  There's been talk of snowmobiling out there with a Weber grill and grilling with Tom.  We're a creative and highly motivated group of aging partiers."


By Mitch Dudek

Staff Reporter