Robert M. Neely, Jr. (88) of Effingham

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Published on September 19 2012 3:43 pm

Robert M. Neely, Jr. 88, of Effingham died Monday evening, September 17, 2012 at Evergreen Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Effingham.

Funeral services will be Thursday, September 27, at 10:30am at Hall Funeral Chapel in Effingham.  Visitation will be from 10am until service time Thursday, the 27th at the funeral chapel.  Burial will be in Woodlawn Cemetery in Effingham with Military Rites. Online condolences may be left at www.hallfuneralchapel.com.

Bob was born January 22, 1924 in Urbana, IL, the only child of Robert Miles Neely Sr. and Ruth Brownfield Neely. He married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Ann Derrough, in 1945.

During WWII, Bob served in the US Army Air Force as a P-38 pilot and was 1 of only 30 pilots in the 21st Photoreconnaissance Squadron stationed in China. The squadron, nicknamed the “China Falcons” was the primary source of intelligence providing information on enemy airfields for preparation of bombing attacks.

In December of 1944, Bob flew alone from Kunning to photograph strategic targets for a B-29 raid to be conducted the following day. Near Hanchow, with Japanese fighter planes firing upon him, daylight fading, and bad weather setting in, Bob became hopelessly lost. With fuel running out and a crash inevitable, Bob bailed out of his plane, an act that few pilots survived. After the night landing, he hid in the brush and observed Chinese fieldworkers throughout the next day. Hoping for their sympathy, Bob finally revealed himself. For next 2 weeks, Chinese citizens hid him during the day and escorted him through the occupied territory at night. When they finally met with American soldiers who had been alerted to his escape, Bob turned to thank his escorts but they had already fled into the countryside concerned for their own safety as they had aided the enemy. Bob was awarded the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Chinese Medal of Honor for his service.

Following his military service, Bob became an automobile dealer and owned new car dealerships in Champaign, Decatur, and Shelbyville. Bob was a perpetual member of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons since 1955.

He is survived by his daughter, Robin Neely, and her husband, John Elmen, of Portland, Maine.

He was preceded in death by his wife Barbara, and their daughter, Nancy Ann Neely.