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Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.
Family was central to Don Neyer when he took his turn as CEO of Al. Neyer Inc., the fourth generation of his family to take the helm. He started working for the family company while in high school and continued while in college.
He met his lifelong sweetheart, Phyllis, on June 14, 1952. Seven months later they were married. Then, he was sent to Korea. After serving for a year and a half in the finance corps during the Korean War, Neyer returned home and started his family. He and Phyllis had eight children. He stepped into his role as CEO in 1969, working closely with his father and brother.
“Christ came here 2,000 years ago to give us two words: to love and serve all that we meet,” he said. “That’s been my criteria for all my working career, and my joy since I’ve retired.”
Don was a champion of the design-build methodology for construction services (wherein a company takes a full-service approach to construction needs, from design to build) and helped Al. Neyer build on its reputation of being ethical developers and contractors.
“The company has grown tremendously since I’ve retired, and they’ve just done remarkable things,” said Neyer.
His ties to Cincinnati beyond Al. Neyer run deep. Don joined the Rotary Club of Cincinnati in 1975, serving on the board in the mid 1980s and earning the SIR (Super Involved Rotarian) Award in 1988. He is passionate about the community he’s found in the Rotary, and two of its beneficiaries, Camp Allyn and Stepping Stones, which provides respite programs for adults and children with disabilities.
When his beloved wife Phyllis suffered third-degree burns in a car crash in 1982, Neyer never left her side. The couple moved into Twin Lakes in 2012 when she began to suffer from dementia. In 2015, he received the Hamilton County Caregiver Award for his dedication to his wife’s care.
She passed away in 2016, but Don found the community at Twin Lakes to be of great comfort. He formed a men’s group, attends mass, and is lovingly referred to as the “acting mayor.” His large and extended family is a point of pride for Don, too. He has 32 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and six of his children are in the Greater Cincinnati area.
His devotion to his Catholic faith formed many of his endeavors in life. For 55 years, he has attended All Saints in Kenwood. He served on the advisory board of Tender Mercies, and on the board of the Springer School. On November 8, 2019, St. Vincent de Paul, in recognition of Don’s lifelong association and service to the nonprofit, named their new building in the West End the Don and Phyllis Neyer Building.
“I was thrilled with it. I was very surprised,” said Don of his Great Living Cincinnatian nomination. The credo of “to love and serve all we meet” has become his operating motto over his life. “I have been blessed by so many things. My parents were wonderful teachers to me and my brothers. They always had good values and were very fervent Catholics. That was ingrained in me all my life. I think the principles got into my mind and so we’ve always made God first in our lives and I’ve continued that.”
Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization