Episcopal priest played key role in civic activities
By BENNETT HALL
Gazette-Times business editor
An Episcopal priest who combined an energetic ministry with a tireless community activism and left an indelible imprint on health care in Corvallis has died.
Father Charles S. Neville died Thursday at the Hillside Retirement Community in McMinnville. He was 90.
Neville came to Corvallis in 1943 to serve as chaplain at Camp Adair and as rector of the Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, a post he held until his retirement in 1981. He remained active in church and civic affairs until 1998, when he moved to McMinnville with his wife.
During his 55 years in Corvallis he presided over tremendous growth within his parish, said Father Bill McCarthy, who retired this year as rector of Good Samaritan Episcopal.
When Neville arrived, McCarthy said, he inherited a small wooden church downtown that eventually became too confining for his expanding congregation. In 1961, it was replaced by the much larger building in use today at 333 N.W. 35th St., while the old building was moved to Central Park and now serves as the Corvallis Art Center.
McCarthy credits much of that growth to Neville's personal leadership and popularity.
"He took the church and began to build a relationship with the congregation and the community," McCarthy said. "And I don't think it's inappropriate to call him the minister of all Corvallis."
Another effort spearheaded by Neville was the construction of Samaritan Village, an 84-unit retirement complex for low-income seniors that opened next door to the church in 1965.
Neville entwined himself with his community through membership in numerous service and fraternal organizations, including the Rotary Club, the Masonic Lodge and the Elks Club. An avid golfer, he was a member of the Corvallis Country Club for many years.
He took an active role in civic affairs, becoming part of an unofficial citizens' group known as "the dirty dozen" whose work in the 1940s and '50s resulted in a number of new parks and the fluoridation of the city's water supply.
"Father Neville emerged as a community leader who could get the community focused on something that was of benefit to all," McCarthy said. "In his heyday, Father Neville could pick up a phone and do all kinds of good things because he knew who to call."
Never was that leadership more significant than in the fight to save the local hospital.
In the years after World War II, Corvallis General Hospital was on the brink of bankruptcy, unable to pay off its bonds. Neville helped bring together church members, timber company owners, downtown merchants and service clubs in an effort to retire the debt and bring the hospital under the auspices of the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon.
In 1948, Corvallis General was reconstituted as a nonprofit organization and renamed Good Samaritan Hospital.
When Good Sam outgrew its aging brick building on Northwest Harrison Boulevard, Neville was instrumental in securing farmland for a new hospital north of town, which opened in 1975.
The hospital has maintained its affiliation with the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon and has continued to thrive. Now known as Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, today it is the flagship institution of Samaritan Health Services, a full-spectrum health care organization that operates five hospitals, two long-term care facilities, numerous physician and specialty clinics and a health insurance business in Benton, Linn and Lincoln counties.
"To this day we are the beneficiaries of some of the vision and the leadership that Charles Neville provided," said Larry Mullins, CEO of Samaritan Health Services. "He truly was one of those legends you meet from time to time that had a huge impact on all of us."
His name lives on at Good Sam.
"I look out my window and there's the Charles S. Neville Medical Office Building," said Julie Manning, a vice president of Samaritan Health Services. "I remember when we dedicated that building (in 1988), and how moved he was. He really was a man of great humility."
Neville is survived by his second wife, Lydia Parkhurst Mix Neville of McMinnville; two sons, Paul Neville of Corvallis and Arthur Neville of Anchorage, Alaska; two daughters, Jane Mink of Sunriver and Ann Teal of McMinnville; two stepdaughters, Robin Mix of Eugene and Dia Ann Shuhart of Salem; and eight grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Jeanette Sargent Neville.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church. Interment will be Wednesday at Sunrise Cemetery in Wasco.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to Good Samaritan Episcopal Church.