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Joseph Bowden “Joe” Neely, Jr

Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia, USA
Death 19 Nov 1974 (aged 51)
Decatur, DeKalb County, Georgia, USA
Burial Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia, USA
Plot Section L, Lot 355, Space 10
Memorial ID 5058356 · View Source
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A whiz at math and science as a child, Joseph Bowden Neely, Jr. grew up through the Depression to program some of the first computers in his positions with the Central of Georgia Railroad in Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia and the Southern Railway System in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. Joe got his first full-time job at the Central of Georgia Railroad through his stepfather's sister, Georgia Riley. He was a graduate of Savannah High School and attended Calvary Baptist Temple in Savannah. He served in the U. S. Army from March 2, 1943 through March 2, 1946. As part of the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) during World War II, he attended both the University of Dayton and the University of Illinois. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Tec 5.

Joe was born at home at 524 West York Street in Savannah at 5:30 am on Friday, April 20, 1923 the son of Joseph Bowden Neely, Sr. and Nettie Donnie King Neely Riley. At birth he weighed 7 pounds and 8 ounces. Like his mother and daughter, he had hazel green eyes, black hair, and was of medium height. Like his daughter and granddaughter, his blood type was O+. His stepfather was Harry Riley. Joe and his younger brother Robbie were raised by their widowed mother after their father's death in 1928. When his mother died of a heart attack in 1958, and Joe returned home to tell her granddaughter Sharlotte that "Ga-ga" Riley was dead, Joe said, "Now I am an orphan." With his father dead when Joe was only five years old and no other relatives in Savannah other than his mother and baby brother, Joe's biggest fear as a child was that he would be orphaned. (He kept secret from his daughter Sharlotte his lifelong fear of lightening so that he would not pass along that fear to her. In much the same way, Sharlotte hid her fear of flying from her daughter Bridgette.)

A Mason (Landrum Lodge 48, Scottish Rite Masonic Center in Savannah), a veteran of World War II, and a member of the American Legion, Joe was married on Saturday, August 21, 1943 at the First Baptist Church in Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio to his high school sweetheart Kathleen Bell Neely. Kathleen and Joe had met backstage at Savannah High School in a pageant in which Joe played Indian chief Tomochichi and Kathleen played a Greek goddess. Their only child is Sharlotte ("Sharkey") Kathleen Neely Donnelly (anthropologist, wife, mother, and grandmother).

On the same day, August 21, 1943, Joe's ASTP buddy, Dayton Clyde Royall, and his bride Edith Mangum Royall Potter were married at the same church. Kathleen had taken the train from Savannah, Georgia to Raleigh, North Carolina, and she and Edith then drove from Raleigh to Dayton, Ohio.

Joe, Kathleen, and Sharlotte lived in Savannah (mostly at 2204 Texas Avenue, and then 12 Wilshire Boulevard) until 1962 and then moved to the Atlanta area (where they mostly lived at 2094 Myrtle Lane, Apt. 6 in Decatur). Their only grandchild is Mary Kathleen Bridgette Elisabeth Donnelly. Their only great-grandchild is Mary Kathleen Quinn Donnelly, pictured here between her great-grandparents' graves. His only brother was James Robert ("Robbie") Neely, Sr. Joe and Robbie had twin brothers who were born and died before Joe and Robbie were born.

Throughout his life Joe was committed to donating blood on a regular basis, and this fact has influenced his granddaughter Bridgette to donate blood on a regular basis. He also never missed voting in any election. Joe died of a heart attack, just before Thanksgiving, at age 51 in the early morning hours on Tuesday, November 19, 1974 at DeKalb General Hospital in DeKalb County, Georgia. He is buried in the Neely family plot in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah next to his beloved wife Kathleen.

Everything fascinated Joe, and he passed along his love of learning to his daughter Sharlotte. Joe's ancestry is Irish, French, English, and--through the Sarvis and King surnames--coastal Carolina Native American, probably Lumbee.

The Neely family gemstone is the diamond. The flower is the red rose.

Most of this information comes from his wife Kathleen Bell Neely and his daughter Sharlotte Neely Donnelly. Any errors are mine alone. Please go to the "edit" link on this site with any corrections or additions.

Family Members




  • Created by: Sharlotte Neely Donnelly
  • Added: 15 Sep 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5058356
  • Sharlotte Neely Donnelly
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Joseph Bowden “Joe” Neely, Jr (20 Apr 1923–19 Nov 1974), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5058356, citing Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia, USA ; Maintained by Sharlotte Neely Donnelly (contributor 19199118) .