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Ada’s ‘swimming lady’ named Distinguished Citizen of the Year

Nov 6, 2015

Saundra “Sandy” Neely, longtime educator and co-owner of Hanson-Neely Funeral Home, was named Ada’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year at the 50th annual Town and Gown Banquet at Ohio Northern University on Monday, Nov. 2.

Neely is a retired teacher who taught physical education at Upper Scioto Valley Junior High School and Ada Exempted Village Schools at the elementary level. After retiring from teaching, she went back to school to obtain her funeral director’s license.

Myra Berger, a lifelong resident, retired teacher and a 1972 graduate of ONU, said Neely is known around town as “the swimming lady” and that her passion for children learning to swim led her to offer swimming lessons in 1975. Through her efforts, Neely has been a major figure in building the outstanding swimming program in Ada for the last 48 years.

“Sandy’s impact on her community is somewhat like a ripple in the water,” Berger said. “It initially started with her providing swimming lessons to her community, but the ripples did not stop there. They expand to create a much larger visual as Sandy continues to take on leadership roles to promote a greater involvement by those she interacts with in order to improve the qualify of life in her community.”

In addition to her work in establishing a strong swimming program, Neely has been a member of the Hardin County Red Cross Advisory Board for more than four decades. She also has been a member of the Ada Junior Civic League since 1977 and a member of the Ada Kiwanis Club. She is a trustee of the Hardin County Community Foundation and a member of the First United Methodist Church of Ada.

The Town and Gown Association was established in 1957 by a group of townspeople and University personnel whose primary interest was to develop and maintain a strong and positive relationship between the village and the University.

In the second year of its existence in 1958, the association decided to sponsor an annual banquet at which time an individual was to be honored as the Distinguished Citizen of the Year. This tradition continues and is considered the high point of the evening’s program.