Memories and thoughts of Neil Besougloff

Posted by Rene Schweitzer
on Wednesday, July 29, 2020

I’ve worked at Kalmbach a long time (nearly 25 years). During that time I’ve attended funerals/memorials for both retired and former co-workers, and in some cases, their spouses. Sadly, in some cases the funeral is expected, either from cancer, a longterm illness, or old age.

Neil Besougloff’s death took me (and most of his former Kalmbach co-workers) by surprise. It had long been a dream of his to retire to Mexico, in the place where he and his wife had vacationed many times. And he did—he sold most of his belongings and headed south in his Hummer. What we didn’t expect was that retirement would be cut short by COVID-19.

2006 company holiday party. Left to right: the late Andy Sperandeo, Judith Hill, and Neil.

I was working at Kalmbach for about a year and a half before Neil moved from Florida to take the job as CTT’s editor. Neil was my supervisor a couple of times during his 20-ish years at Kalmbach. Initially, he supervised me for CTT. Before his retirement, he was both Model Railroader’s editor and Assistant Publisher of Garden Railways. I worked on just GR then, and he was my direct supervisor.

In 2007, David Popp (left) and Neil ran some MR project layouts for employees during an internal holiday party.

During my first stint with CTT, when he was editor, he encouraged me to participate in magazine projects. With help from then Associate Editor Terry Thompson, I restored my dad’s postwar Lionel Berkshire and wrote about it. I made scenery using plaster of Paris on the desert-themed project railroad. I attended Trainfest many times with his support.

A 2008 holiday party. Left to right is librarian Tom Hoffman, Cody Grivno from MR, Neil, and former CTT editorial assistant Lyn Dodson.

In thinking of Neil since his death, several themes come to mind. The first is the sound of his laugh and love of practical jokes. He used to eat two pieces of fruit each day. If he’d have a banana, he’d often “hide” the peel in Roger Carp’s office. This became a running gag between the two of them. I’d hear his laugh and then see him walk to the coffee station with a banana peel and know that the game was on.

A group from MR Video Plus in 2008. Cody's Office had parodied 'It's a Wonderful Life.' Neil was Mr. Gower (center) and Bob Keller was Clarence the Angel. Neil was trying to sell magazines to people on the street.

He also loved cars. My dad’s family owned a tire repair shop for many years, and my dad later managed a tire store until his retirement a few years ago, so I’m more interested in cars/tires than most women. We’d talk about car maintenance, issues with our current vehicles, and tire brand preferences.

His first car in Wisconsin was a Mustang, and at the time I drove a 1982 Buick Regal. Both were rear-wheel drive. We often spoke about traction (or lack thereof) in wintertime, or about the weight we’d put in our trunks to help with traction.

A 2010 holiday party. Left to right is Cody Grivno, Neil, the late Andy Sperandeo, Eric Stepflug, Dana Kawala, and Mark Hembree from the scale modeling world.

Before he bought his Pontiac GTO, he showed me the photos on his computer. He wondered what brand of tires were on it, so we zoomed in on the photos and tried to figure it out. I can’t remember the brand anymore, but I do remember that my guess was right!

One of my favorite group shots: the year the CTT staff dressed up as the Wizard of Oz for a company party. Left to right: Jim Riccioli as the Wicked Witch, me as Dorothy, Kelly Shaw as the scarecrow, Roger Carp as the lion, Bob Keller as the tin man, and Neil as the wizard.

I’m also a huge cat lover (we currently have four). Neil had a named Spooky cat for many years, and he’d come to me for advice about the cat’s health. I was touched that he felt I was enough of an expert to offer advice, and he usually took it.

It seems surreal that he is now gone—the dream retirement cut short. It’s a reminder to all of us to enjoy and appreciate each day, even during these challenging times of COVID-19. Enjoy your hobby, make that phone call, tell someone you care about them. Life is precious.

PS If you've read this far, thank you. I've found some photos from internal Kalmbach functions that I'm including here. Click on any to enlarge.

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