Thomson lost a beloved native son last week when longtime community, civic and church leader Thomas Neal passed away.
Friends say Dr. Neal, who died Jan. 6, will be remembered for his life of service to his country, his community and his church.
Dr. Neal was born and reared in Thomson to a family of dentists which spans four generations. As a dentist, he served the community for half a century while also finding time for civic and church projects.
"Dr. Neal was a fixture and very much a pillar of our community - not only the medical community, but the community of faith," said Dr. Jamie Lemley.
"We lost a tremendous individual, but we enjoy his tremendous legacy," Dr. Lemley said.
Dr. Neal was a military veteran, a respected member of the board of education for many years, a civic leader and an active member of First United Methodist Church where he volunteered countless hours.
He was a man of the people, a down-to-earth, supportive friend who was "always on the lookout to help others," said Mary Jean Register who met Dr. Neal and his wife when she moved to Thomson in 1976.
"He was very much a community and service oriented person, as was his wife. They saw to a lot of needs -- it was like their own ministry," she said.
Friends say Dr. Neal quietly helped others, doing what he could when he had the chance.
"He did a lot for the community that people never knew about. He helped folks out on the QT without any recognition," remembered George Lokey.
He always remembered those who were ill and would bring kind words and good food, said Bennie Sissom, who lived next door to him for 49 years.
"He was a good neighbor, a good church member and a good dentist," she said, adding she was treated by three generations of Neal dentists.
"Dr. Tom loved everybody, and everybody loved him. He will be sorely missed by the community and by our church," said Guill Johnson who attended the same Sunday school class as Dr. Neal.