ROSEBURG — Retired Sheriff Norman Neal, 83, passed away Feb. 27. Sheriff Neal dedicated his professional life to public service.
He served in the U.S. Air Force for four years. At 21, he served both with the Roseburg Police Department and as rural fire department volunteer. As such, he was a first responder in the 1959 Roseburg Blast where a truck carrying a two-ton load of dynamite and four and one-half tons of ammonium nitrate blew up and leveled 8 city blocks.
A few years later, in 1963, Neal was sworn in as a Deputy with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Norm, along with (retired) Sheriff John Pardon, established the local SAR program. Neal was also a founding member of the Sheriff’s Office Dive Team. He was promoted through the ranks during his long career, holding positions as both Sergeant and Lieutenant. In 1981, Norm was elected to his first four-year term as Douglas County Sheriff and served a second term until his retirement.
While serving as Sheriff, he was instrumental in establishing the first SAR State Standards, and was also one of the Sheriffs that pushed the man tracking program in Oregon.
After his retirement in 1989, Norm remained active as a volunteer with the Search and Rescue Program that meant so much to him. As a volunteer, his desire for betterment of the SAR program did not slow down. He was instrumental in re-establishing the 4x4 SAR Program and was one of the snowcat operators. He championed the effort to replace the aging snowcat with a new Tucker. He formally retired in 2015 from his volunteer work with the Sheriff’s Office.
His service to the county, both in law enforcement and through search and rescue, spanned a total of 52 years.
“Sheriff Neal was a dedicated and respected servant of the community. His service was honorable and has had substantial positive impact on the safety of our county,” Sheriff John Hanlin describes. “He was instrumental in establishing a quality, professional Search & Rescue program in Douglas County, and was the first Sheriff in the county to successfully pass a public safety levy to fund much needed public safety services during the County’s financial shortfalls of the early 80s.”