Frank W. Neely

Frank Wright Neely   September 10, 1939 –  April 13, 2017

Frank “Wright” Neely, 77, of Urbana, passed away on April 13, 2017, at Champaign County Nursing Home.  A memorial service will be held on Friday, May 5 at 4:00 p.m. at Renner-Wikoff Chapel and Crematory, 1900 S. Philo Rd., Urbana.

Mr. Neely was born September 10, 1939, in Amarillo, Texas, to parents Mark Edward and Lottie (Wright) Neely. They preceded him in death.  Wright is survived by three children: Sophia Neely (and partner Suzanne Schoeneweiss), of Chicago, Illinois; Mark Neely (and wife Jill Christman) of Muncie, Indiana; and Juliet Neely Henigman (and husband Alan) of Savoy. He is also survived by: his brother, Mark E. Neely Jr. (and wife Sylvia), of State College, Pennsylvania; his former wife, Carol Thomas Neely, of Champaign; and his grandchildren, Craig, Ella, Henry, Levi, and Maya.

Wright attended Yale University, where he earned his PhD in 1967.  He taught philosophy at the University of Illinois for 40 years before retiring. His influential article, “Freedom and Desire,” appeared in The Philosophical Review in 1974. Wright was an amateur magician, lover of classical music, movie buff, and avid reader of mysteries, poetry, and books on subjects ranging from physics and cognitive science to history and linguistics.

Freedom and Desire
an article by Wright Neely in The Philosophical Review,vol.83, pp.32-54, 1974

when Charles and I called,
enquired how’s he doing

the nurse said, wait a minute,
I’ll see

when she returned to the phone
dead was all she said

the last time I saw Wright
we drank coffee

in a local McDonalds
my wife snapped our picture

he told me he hadn’t needed me
for fifty years and saw no reason now

to re-establish our friendship
which had consumed us

from about fourteen until thirty
debate partner, Yale roomie

member of each other’s
wedding party

he continued to smoke
had quit drinking years ago
his literary famous wife divorced
he retired quietly to the comfort
of a posh old folks’ home
organized a poetry group

to whom he read his son’s poems
one daughter visited occasionally

we never learned whether calamity
or neglect made him the county’s ward

he died alone in the county’s rest home
a 19th century poorhouse

the three of us: Wright, Charles, and I
shared every young man’s dreams

played bridge, drank coffee
rode around on the weekends

without dates as we were
eggheads and didn’t know

how to attract the young ladies
we sometimes talked about

when we weren’t debating
education, theology, or other

important topics avoiding
our hormones and loneliness

we were the epitome
of Freedom and Desire