Harry 'Hap' McNeel, 86: He 'enjoyed building things people could use'

It was no accident that Harry McNeel’s friends called him Hap. Short for ‘Happy,’ McNeel often had a smile on his face and could always be found making new friends.

“There wasn’t anyone he wouldn’t meet,” said his youngest son, Morgan McNeel, who lives in Kennesaw. “He’d be walking down the street and introduce himself to anybody he didn’t already know; and then they’d be friends, just like that.”

A home builder for 20 years, Hap McNeel got into commercial and industrial building in the 1970s, his son said.

“Some of his best friends he met because he leased space to them,” Morgan McNeel said with a laugh. “He was the same way when he was building houses. He’d build a house for somebody and then turn around and be their friend.”

Harry Hodgson McNeel of Marietta died Feb. 10 of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 86.

A memorial service was held Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Marietta. Carmichael Funeral Home, Marietta, was in charge of cremation arrangements.

Born in Marietta, and grandson of the founder of the McNeel Marble Co., Hap McNeel once considered a career in the military. After one year at Marietta High, he graduated from the Marion Military Institute in Marion, Ala. He joined the Navy in 1945 and even went to The Citadel for a year in 1947, before transferring to the University of Georgia.

It was while he was working at Lockheed in the mid-‘50s that he decided to open his own company, said his daughter Peggy McNeel McKinnon, who lives in Kennesaw. He started McNeel Builders, Inc. in 1957, where he started building homes, she said.

“I believe he enjoyed building things people could use,” she said. “And he also loved to see his community thrive.”

McKinnon said her father not only liked being in business, but he enjoyed the family business. He left his business to his children so they could carry it on, Morgan McNeel said.

McNeel said his father set up a good business and was “blessed with the gift of foresight,” when it came to development in Marietta.

“He’d been able to watch Marietta grow from when he was a boy,” McNeel said, of his father. “And somehow he could see around the corner, he could see what was coming, and he knew what to do.”

In addition to his son and daughter, McNeel is survived by his wife of 63 years, Patricia McCormick McNeel; sons, Sterling McNeel of Jasper and Steve McNeel of Marietta; sister, Dorothy McNeel Young of Columbus; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.