Tough exterior, tender heart
The grieving family of Neal Joshua King would rather you remember what they remember: his ever-present smile and a love for family.
"He was one of the greatest, tender-hearted persons I know," said his father, Danny King. "He was my baby. Life won't be the same without him."
Bethany Penley, King's cousin, said in an e-mail, "He was funny and could make you laugh no matter how bad your day was."
King, 36, was found dead Tuesday morning in an abandoned mobile home off Meadowlane Drive, not far from his own mobile home on Perkins Place. Police say no foul play is suspected but they do not think he died of natural causes.
King's mother, Suzie Holden, said Thursday that she last heard from him in a text message sent May 19, telling her he loved her. A few days later, she and her husband, Joe Holden, and others canvassed the area where he lived, hoping to find him.
"Inside, I had this bad feeling. It just wasn't like him," she said.
Members of King's family worry that the news surrounding his death -- how he died and his past troubles -- will linger, and some people never know the rest. Neal King was anxious to get on with his life, and he was a good person, Danny King said.
"He took a lot of wrong roads, and we had our ups and downs, but we had each other's backs," Danny King said. "He was the light of my eye."
"Neal had problems, we all knew that," said Sandra Cox, his aunt. "He got into trouble, he got messed up with bad people, but his heart was so good. You could ask him to do anything, and he would."
King was a talented artist, often drawing on the walls of the mobile home he lived in. But Cox said he just didn't know how to harness that talent.
He also loved dogs, and would sometimes give up his own food so they could eat, she said.
King worked odd jobs for anyone who asked, she said. He cleaned yards, helped build decks and laid tile floors. He didn't receive public assistance, preferring to make money with the work of his hands, Penley said in an email.
"He did not live off the system, as many others do," Penley wrote. "He did the best he could with what he had."