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Priscilla Wood Neaves 1945-2019

Thursday, September 5, 2019
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Priscilla Wood Neaves, a United Methodist minister and hospital chaplain, died in Spur, Texas on Aug. 30, 2019. She struggled with cortical neurodegenerative disease in recent years.

Reverend Neaves, an ordained deacon and elder in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, served as associate pastor at William Martin United Methodist Church in Bedford, Texas and at First United Methodist Church in Arlington, Texas. She preached sermons, counseled parishioners, and officiated at communions, baptisms, weddings and funerals.

After several years of parish ministry, Reverend Neaves accepted appointment as director of development at Perkins School of Theology. Among other initiatives, she led fundraising to establish the William Joseph Ambrose Power Chair of Biblical Hebrew and Old Testament Interpretation at Southern Methodist University (SMU). Although successful, she missed ministry and decided to become an ecclesiastically certified hospital chaplain.

She completed the Clinical Pastoral Education Program at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas during her last decade in Texas, and she served as a chaplain in the cancer ward at Parkland Memorial Hospital, in the emergency room at Children’s Medical Center, and in the clinics at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.

The final decade of Reverend Neaves’s career was in Missouri. She served on the board of directors of the Midwest Bioethics Center and on the institutional review board of Children’s Mercy Hospital. From 2006 to 2010, she served pro bono publico as full-time chaplain of Carroll County Memorial Hospital.

Priscilla Wood was born April 30, 1945, in Rotan, Texas to Horace Brumbelow Wood, a cattle rancher in Kent County, Texas, and Clarice Laine Wood, a correspondent for the Lubbock Avalanche Journal who taught school in Spur. During her first year of grade school in Spur, she met William Barlow Neaves. They married thirteen years later in 1965.

After graduating in 1966 from Boston University with a baccalaureate degree in sociology, she worked as a research assistant for Cambridge Mental Health Associates in Massachusetts, before her first child was born at the end of 1968. A year later, she and her husband moved with their toddler son to Nairobi, Kenya where they remained for two years. They returned to Texas in December 1971, and their daughter was born a few months later in Dallas.

During the decade focused on rearing two children, Priscilla met women ministers who served as her role models and mentors. After enrolling in Perkins School of Theology in 1980, she became an ordained deacon in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. As her thesis project, Reverend Neaves retraced the Old Spur Methodist Circuit on horseback and preached to surviving congregants at sites abandoned early in the 20th century.

She earned a Master of Theology cum laude from SMU in 1985 and received the B'nai Brith Award in Social Ethics, given by the Harold M. Kaufman Foundation to the graduating student who demonstrated scholarly competence in the field of social ethics and commitment to voluntary activity in support of worthy social causes. Her skill in composing sermons earned the Paul W. Quillian Homiletics Award for the best-written sermon by a member of her graduating class in 1985 at Perkins School of Theology. In 1987, Reverend Neaves received elder ordination in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

She was preceded in death by her son, Bill Neaves, Jr., in 2007, and by her mother and father in 1992 and 1993, respectively. Her eldest sister, Margaret Wood Brannon of San Antonio, Texas, died in 2010. She is survived by her sister, Beverly Wood Krieger of Austin, Texas; her husband of 54 years, William Barlow Neaves of Spur; her daughter and son-in-law, D’Laine Neaves Rutledge and Jeromy Rutledge of Spur; grandsons, William Cade Rutledge and his wife Mariko of Guam and Thomas Carson Rutledge of Lubbock, Texas; and her nephews and nieces, Steve Brannon, Rhonda Brannon Lowe, Ross Brannon, Scott Krieger and Missa Krieger Mayes.

Memorials include the Chaplain Priscilla Wood Neaves Chair in Clinical Pastoral Education at the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, the Reverend Priscilla Wood Neaves Distinguished Professorship in Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis and the Priscilla Wood Neaves Chair in Biomedical Sciences at the Stowers Institute in Kansas City.

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