Neil Edwin Armstrong
June 1, 1930  -  April 29, 2018

Neil Edwin Armstrong


Funeral Service
Nogal Community Church
Highway 37 & Moore Road
Nogal, NM  88341
Saturday, June 09, 2018
11:00 AM
Map & Directions  Map & Directions


I served in the Marine.

Neil Edwin Armstrong’s tremendous heart stopped on April 29, 2018. Born on June 1, 1930, he would have turned 88 this year. During his long life, Neil had three great loves: the mountains of Lincoln County, New Mexico, the United States Marine Corps, and his wife, Chiyoko. These great loves motivated his life choices and formed his exceptional
character. But nobody knows where his personality — funny, quirky, bold, sometimes loud, sometimes silent, always large — came from. Neil was an excellent man.

He was born on his grandparents’ ranch near White Oaks, New Mexico, and spent his early years in the country. He worked hard, grew remarkably strong, and learned to love the outdoors, nature and animals. Neil liked to tell people that he was valedictorian of his eighth-grade class (of two students) at the now historic White Oaks grade school. During World War II, Neil’s mother joined the WACS; and Neil and his brother, Robert, happily lived for a time with their aunt and uncle, Opal and Weston Mills. The Mills were surrogate parents to Neil and Robert, and the Mills’ young children thought the boys were their brothers. From the Mills, Neil learned grace, generosity and goodness.

At 17, Neil joined the United States Marine Corps. His courage, physical strength, integrity and command presence were valued by the Corps, and he advanced rapidly. On the other hand, Neil’s irreverence, independence, and strong sense of fun (read: drinking, fighting, and poker playing) sometimes lead to trouble. He was called “Big Red” and his temper was legendary. Almost half of Neil’s 20 years in the Marine Corps was spent on foreign soil. He saw active combat duty in both Korea and Vietnam. His military awards and commendations include a Bronze Star for Combat Valor and a Silver Star for Meritorious Conduct.

During the Korean War, Neil was stationed for a time in Japan. There he met the greatest love of his life, Chiyoko. They married, and together raised five children. (Neil found his Drill Instructor techniques somewhat less effective on his children than his recruits, but he did his best to shape his children into tough, honest, disciplined and hard-working individuals.). Neil and Chiyoko sometimes faced hardship, but they maintained a magically strong bond throughout their lives. It was for Chiyoko that Neil left the Marines. Neil was offered a promotion he had been waiting for, but the promotion came with another assignment to Vietnam. Chiyoko couldn’t bear the thought, and Neil couldn’t bear her fear and sadness. Besides, the mountains of New Mexico constantly called to Neil. He planned to return to New Mexico after leaving the service.

Neil’s beloved grandparents had bequeathed part of their ranch to him. But he needed resources to build a house, drill a well, and purchase cattle. So, after leaving the Corps, Neil moved his family frequently, making a living in various places, in various trades. He told his family that it was all “training for New Mexico.” A child of the Great Depression, Neil understood the value of a dollar. He could not tolerate waste, was thrifty to a fault, and saved money obsessively. Wherever he lived, Neil planted and carefully tended a vegetable garden. Providing food for his family, through his own sweat and labor, gave Neil great pleasure. He was happiest out-of-doors, working in his garden or with wood. His goal was total independence and self-sufficiency -- to live entirely off his land. Neil’s land in New Mexico was his safety net, the foundation of his hopes and dreams, and the home of his heart.

In 1972, the Armstrongs moved to Tucson, where Neil and Chiyoko lived until Chiyoko’s death five years ago. During this period, Neil purchased additional ranch land. Every day of his life he spoke of returning to New Mexico. He saved money, and gradually built fences and buildings, installed electric power lines, and drilled water wells on his land. He purchased, grazed, and sold cattle. He earned an Associate Degree in Business Administration from Pima Community College. Neil was ready for New Mexico, but Chiyoko’s health issues demanded that they live near a major medical center. Moving to Neil’s beautiful mountains was not possible.

Two years after Chiyoko’s heartbreaking death in 2013, Neil moved into a brand-new house on his land. Tragically, after a few months, illness forced him to return to Tucson for care and treatment. But he fought the good fight and finished the race. Neil’s courage never wavered. He always told the truth. He told jokes loudly, with perfect timing, and loved to make people laugh. He may have been the most hard-working person ever born. Anything Neil planted, in any soil, flourished -- including his dreams. His dreams were large and bold, and he pursued them to the end. He never lost heart. It just stopped.

Neil will be buried with Chiyoko, near his grandparents, his mother, and his sister, in White Oaks, New Mexico. Neil is survived by his five children, Caroline Van Cleave (Ray), Albert (Chaunacy), Arleen (David Del Beccaro), Alisa (Andrew Reimanis), and Annette; many well-loved grandchildren; his cousins, Karen Mills, Donna Gore, Michael Mills, and Darla Jo Lathan. His mother, Robbie Crenshaw; his brother, Robert Armstrong; and his sister, Bertha, who died in early childhood, predeceased him.

Visitation will be Saturday, June 9, at 10:00 A.M. with his funeral service to follow at 11:00 A.M. in the Nogal Community Church.

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