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Hundreds remember former Hart student killed in crash

• More than 400 attend funeral for James Neill.

Posted: April 25, 2008 3:07 a.m.
Updated: June 26, 2008 5:02 a.m.

SueAnn Sagehorn sits at the makeshift memorial for her boyfriend, James Neill. He died in a car crash on April 16. More than 400 mourners attended Neill's funeral Thursday.

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Hundreds of family and friends gathered Thursday afternoon at a memorial for James "Jimmy" Neill, the 23-year-old Castaic resident who died on April 16 when his vehicle flipped over and collided with a tree on Hasley Canyon Road near his home.

More than 400 people packed Grace Baptist Church in Saugus to pay their last respects to Neil, a former Hart High School football player who nurtured a post-grad passion for golf.

Neill's casket was flanked by a golf course, a "19th hole" golf course flag, and his Hart High football gear. His closed casket was covered by a patch of golfing green and a golf ball.

During the funeral service at Grace Baptist Church, Neill's best friends tearfully expressed their gratitude and admiration of former College of the Canyons graduate.

"Jimmy kept his friends close," said Chad Michaud. "He truly loved all of his friends."

Michaud then completed his eulogy with some emotional words directed at his fallen friend.

"You better be practicing (golf) up there, because next time I see you, it's on."

Pastor Mike Gaston said that while it was difficult for everyone to attend a funeral, the somber event was actually honorable.

"We do not want to be here today, laying Jimmy to rest," he said. "Yet there are some good things that happen in the house of mourning. There is hope and encouragement."

After a 30-minute video memorial and brief service, a burial service followed at Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall.

Neill, who was born in 1984, died as he was driving home on April 16, when he lost control of his vehicle and collided with a tree on Hasley Canyon Road near Trollers Lane in Castaic. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

He was attending California State University, Northridge, and was employed at the Pro Shop of the Vista Valencia Golf Course. His hobbies included playing golf, spending time on the river in Bullhead City, Ariz., softball and darts.

Neill is survived by his parents, John and Anita Neill; his brother, Dave; and his sister, Ali.

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