Remembering Neal

Neal Brinneman
Memorial Flowers

May 27, 2018, 7 a.m.

Dear friends and family,

Yesterday, Saturday, May 26, at 2:32 p.m. Richard Neal Brinneman passed from this life into eternal life with Christ. On Wednesday he was moved from a room at Novant Presbyterian Medical Center, Charlotte, N.C., to the hospice facility in the same hospital. The nurses said he arrived with a remarkable degree of peace. He told them, and the doctors, that he had placed his trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins and for the salvation of his soul, and that his hope was to leave this earth quickly and painlessly.

By Friday midnight he was still lucid and able to talk to son Daniel, who slept in an adjoining room, but by Saturday morning when I arrived from son Ben’s home ten minutes away, Neal was under even more morphine and sedation, sleeping and breathing hard. None of the staff could tell us for sure how long he would survive, but as the hours passed and Ben, Daniel, and I waited, watching, it was looking more like the end was near.

Around 2:25 p.m. the nurse came in to give Neal another dose of relaxant to ease his breathing, and then she said suddenly, “Oh, he doesn’t need this now. I will leave you alone to be with him.” We were startled. And then we watched him slowly leave us over the next few minutes. Patty and the two babies and Patty’s parents had been there with us earlier. She returned just two minutes after Neal died. So we had time together to weep and say our good-byes. I was especially touched to see both Ben and Daniel lovingly minister to Neal throughout these days and even after his death. So Neal’s heart’s desire to go quickly and without pain was granted by our Heavenly Father. Even the nurse saw it and said to me that he went very quickly and without struggle.

I found daunting the possibility of Neal lingering at home this coming week under my hand (and hospice assistance) or of his spending even a few weeks in a nursing facility, and I wondered if I had the strength to face that after already two months now of daily stress and distress caring for him at home as he got weaker and weaker. So I especially thank God that I was spared those situations.

My family and I are also grateful that Neal survived his first bout of (bladder) cancer (diagnosed end-August 2014) so that he could meet and love his first two grandchildren, Pierce and Maggie Rose (now 11 months old). Pierce had a special bond with his “PApa,” and when Neal was around, Pierce could see only him. Even now at 27 months, Pierce walks around with a laminated photo of Neal and me, pointing out Papa to others.

I am now a widow, but I anticipate a special care from God in my years ahead. “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation” (Psalm 68:5). I thank him for two fine sons, a lovely daughter-in-law, other wonderful family members, and scores of brothers and sisters in Christ to walk with me.

Neal and I had an extraordinary chance to serve God together so that others might have God’s Word, God’s promises, in their own language. We worked together well as a team. We anticipated seeing the entire Bible completed by the Lama (Togo) team within three years. At 83 years old, Neal had still not retired from Wycliffe. He loved helping others complete Bible translations and loved attending church and teaching Sunday school.

We have at the same time faced many challenging situations health-wise and other in our life together in Africa and here. (Our 39th wedding anniversary would have been June 9.) But in the end, we agreed just a few days ago that all that really matters in this life is that we bring glory to our Creator God. Nothing else counts. For us, and all believers, it is the only reason to have breath and live. And many times in order to get that pure, distilled, shining glory, God allows us to be crushed through suffering even as delicate flower petals are to extract costly perfumes. So in the pain and grief of this day, we pray above all else that God’s name will be lifted up and praised for all he has done for us.

Jesus is the only Savior out there; there is no other. He is the only one who can forgive sins and raise us up again after death. I expect to see Neal alive again someday in glory. Do you know this powerful Savior, who loves you deeply and gave his life in exchange for yours? If not, Neal and I hope you will put your trust in him today … and start living!

With many grateful thanks for all the messages of love and care you have sent us in the last few weeks!


Obituary for Richard Neal Brinneman

November 24, 1934 - May 26, 2018


Gifts in memory of Neal to support Bible translation may be sent to JAARS at

Richard Neal Brinneman was born November 24, 1934, in Mt. Zion, northeast Indiana, at home—the same home in which his father had been born. Neal grew up, the first of seven children, in the nearby village of Poneto, attending school there and in Liberty Center. His father, Carl, was a farmer and handyman from whom Neal learned much that would serve him later in life.

In 1957 Neal earned a B.A. from Huntington College, Huntington, Indiana, with a triple major: math, chemistry, and French. In 1965 he obtained his master’s in math at Central Michigan University. He served his country for two years as a mathematician at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico (1957–59). He then taught math in high schools in Indiana and Michigan from 1959–1965 and at Huntington College in 1965–1966 and 1969–1970.

Neal felt called to serve God as a missionary and became the principal of a mission high school and farm school in Bumpe, Sierra Leone, under the United Brethren in Christ from 1966 to 1969. While there he mastered the Mende language. Because of that and knowing his Bible well, he decided to apply to Wycliffe Bible Translators. He was accepted in August 1970 even though they thought he was too old to begin a translation project at age 35. He served as a Bible translator with the Lama team of northern Togo from 1972–1993. Both he and his wife, Carol, loved speaking French, the official language of Togo. The Lama New Testament was published in May 1994. The Old Testament is expected to be completed by 2020.

Neal was an enthusiastic amateur pilot and earned his multi-engine, commercial, and instrument ratings. He loved reading Christian novels and enjoyed bowling, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, and Sudoku. He never watched television. Carol says that in their almost 39 years of marriage she never ever heard him once criticize anyone. He had a beautiful bass voice and in his early years sang with his family quartet. Up until his old age, he was very strong physically and was involved in construction during the summers in college. He engineered raising the beams of a twelve-sided, round church in Kande, Togo, whose photo was later published on a postage stamp. He built a home for Carol in Kande, which featured swamp-cooler air conditioning, running hot water (from an abandoned truck pressure tank placed over the heat coming up from the kerosene refrigerator), and a ceiling insulated with kapok/cotton-silk tree fibers.

In June 1979 he married Carol Gratrix, a fellow Bible translator working in Côte d’Ivoire, whom he had met in Paris in 1971. They married in Abidjan in a lovely Catholic seminary chapel and spent their honeymoon at a Catholic retreat center, eating meals with three nuns—the only private, beautiful, and affordable venues available then. Their first child, a girl, was stillborn and buried in Togo in October 1980. They have two sons, Daniel born in Bluffton, Indiana, in December 1981, and Benjamin, born in Kara, Togo, in 1983.

In early 1993, the Brinnemans moved to North Carolina to work at the JAARS Center. Neal became an IT specialist, helping others complete their translations, especially through Paratext software assistance. He also served on the TOTAL-It-Up! recruitment course staff, as a Wycliffe recruitment speaker in colleges, and a vespers service host. Neal also served many years as a Sunday school class teacher.

In 1994 he received the Alumnus of Year award from Huntington College.

He is survived by his wife, Carol, sons Daniel and Benjamin, daughter-in-law Patty, and two grandchildren: Pierce and Maggie Rose. Also by his sister Doris Chartier and brother Rex Brinneman and their spouses.

Tribute Wall


Click here to read or print the memorial service bulletin:

Memorial Program PDF

Here is the memorial service in its entirety:

Our thanks to Ms. Lindsey Smith, videographer

and photographer (!

Here is the entire medley played by Mr. Scott Griffin prior to the memorial service. Thank you, Scott!

“So Send I You”

“God Be with You till We Meet Again”

“Moment by Moment”

“Day by Day”

“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”

“Face to Face”

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (while family walks in)

Here is the PowerPoint alone, shown at the beginning of Neal’s memorial service while the pianist was playing.

This video of Neal telling potential recruits a few years ago about how he crashed into the mission field is also embedded in the memorial service above.

Here's a memorial to Neal that we set up in our living room (click to enlarge).