He was known by many, for his life had affected so many through the different paths he took. So it was no surprise that after Father Neil passed away on July 7, that St. Mary’s Church in Riverside was filled to capacity for his funeral.

Father Neil Van Dyke held many titles during his life, but all were of service to others. A plumber by trade, he brought that skill to the Peace Corps, where he met Mary Lee, a nurse, who was to become his wife and mother to their four children.

The couple settled in Riverside, and Neil became a member of the fire department and later director of public works for the village. Water seemed to be a part of his life throughout his career, but then (as I told him) he entered the world of Holy Water when he became a deacon of the Catholic Church on April 25, 1987.

Following the death of Mary Lee, he took another step and entered the priesthood and was ordained on May 23, 1998. His time spent at Mundelein, where he trained for the priesthood, found him to almost have a “fatherly” role, as he was the oldest in his class to be ordained. His ordination at Holy Name Cathedral captured the attention of the media.

Father Neil served as associate pastor of St. Bede the Venerable and at St. Barbara’s in Brookfield before being named pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Stickney. He retired in 2010. Of course he never really retired, he “transitioned” with his ministry and could be seen saying 7 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s many Sundays. His homilies and presence were something special with his humor, smile and humility, a gift to all.

Tributes to Neil came in many forms at his funeral. Members of the the Riverside Fire Department, in full dress, one by one saluted him as they passed his coffin. Bishop Goedert of the Archdiocese of Chicago read a letter from the Cardinal. He was memorialized and remembered by the large number of priests in attendance.

All who gathered could share stories of Neil from the many phases of his life. Who can forget when, as a father, he walked his daughter, Kathleen, down the aisle to marry David Deitz.

Then Neil walked up to the altar, where he was met by a priest who would help him on with his own vestments, so he could officiate at his daughter’s wedding. Don’t we usually wait for the bride to get dressed?

He served well, and we were all blessed to have known him, no matter in what capacity. He now joins Mary Lee and to us he leaves his kids, Trey (Jeanne), Meg, Kathleen (David) and Keith; his granddaughter, Paige; a remembrance of a life well lived.

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