Cornelius “Corky” Wendell Vahle Jr., 88

Neal Vahle

Affectionately known as Corky, Neal, and ‘PaNeal’ to his grandchildren.

Corky suffered a debilitating stroke in November, 2019, and made a valiant effort to recover over the following months. He passed away in the presence of his family the morning of March 17, 2020, St. Patrick’s day, in San Francisco, California.

Corky was born in Tracy, MN on July 15, 1932, to Gertrude and Cornelius Vahle Sr. Corky’s father taught him how to play the sports he came to love, especially baseball and basketball. Corky learned to pitch in the alley beside their house and had a basketball hoop installed in the basement. Corky’s mother introduced him to the piano and he became an accomplished concert pianist. He played the organ in St Mary’s Catholic Church from the time he was 12. Corky worked in the family business, ‘The Vahle Sweetshop’ growing up and developed a lifelong love of all things sweet. He graduated from Tracy High in 1950 and St. John’s in 1954. Corky spent 2 years in the Army in Germany before returning to obtain a Master’s in Modern European History from Catholic U. in Washington DC where he began to go by the name ‘Neal’. He married Helen Kate Curry of New York City in 1958 and had four children, Maria, Stephen, Thomas More and Peter. From 1960-1966 he served in the Executive Office of the President under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. He later completed a doctorate in American History from Georgetown University in 1967. He co-founded and directed Heldref Publications through the 1970s and ‘80s, an organization dedicated to publishing scholarly journals.

In 1990, Neal left the publishing business and started a new life in California. He began a second career as a writer, something he always wanted to do. Neal wrote and published twelve works of non-fiction, including ‘Smart Baseball: How Professionals Play the Mental Game’ co-authored with Buddy Bell. In 2009 he co-authored ‘Scrapper/Panther Athletics, Sports in a Minnesota Small Town’ with Dick Donaldson, a book about Tracy’s athletes and athletic teams. Neal’s roots in Minnesota ran deep. He regularly returned to visit old friends and family in town. He also brought each of his grandchildren to visit his parent’s former lake cottage at Lake Shetek, a favorite summertime destination for the family.

In 1993 he met Nancy Scotton of San Francisco, California, whom he married in 2000. They spent many happy years together and were a great support to one another until the very end. Neal maintained his love of music and sports throughout his life participating in Glide Memorial Church of San Francisco and playing tennis regularly until the day of the stroke. He shared this love of music and sports with his four children and eight grandchildren.

Neal is survived by his wife, Nancy Scotton, four children Maria Klein, Stephen Vahle, Thomas More and Peter Vahle, eight grandchildren Brody, Riley, Mary Rose and Lillian Klein of Cupertino, California, Toullia and Nylane Vahle of Montpellier, France and Kieran and Jasmina Vahle of San Francisco, California as well as Nancy’s son David Scotton of Mountain View, California.

A memorial in San Francisco will be planned later in the year when restrictions on gathering are eased.