Queen Tonie NealNever Saw It Coming Red Hatters from North Carolina
Tonie Neal was born in High Point, North Carolina and grew up in Fayetteville, NC. She met and married her husband, James, to whom she has been married 37 years, when she returned to college to finish her education after being widowed. James was finishing his degree after getting out of the service. Each had one child at that time; together they added one more to their brood, and now have their first grandchild as well. Their experience with their own children was only the tip of the iceberg: over the years they fostered 74 children in partnership with their local mental health department!
Tonie's education credentials include a Master's degree in Education, a certification in Counseling and Elementary Education (K-3). She put her training to use as a counselor at Hope Mills Middle School for 24 years. She also worked part-time jobs in alternative sentencing plans for the local courts, greeting card company sales, and a counseling families of handicapped children. Along the way she also co-owned a school supply store! She still substitute teaches a couple of times a month.
Tonie's hobbies also show a high degree of active involvements: she enjoys traveling, reading, needlework, line dancing, going to museums and attending art and music performances, as well as volunteering at her local little theater. Add about 5 – 10 ours a week working with her church committees, and you get one busy lady!
Tonie formed her Chapter by recruiting ladies from her church who responded to the idea of taking time for themselves. Their name says it all; they are the "Never Saw It Coming Red Hatters." While all of their gatherings have been fun, one of their favorites involved riding their city bus, as a group. (Some of them had never done it!) So they made arrangements with their local bus company and spent a day riding around. One of their Chapterettes had a jazzy pair of new purple boots on, and – as soon as they got off the bus – they immediately went shopping, en masse, to get their own boots! Tonie adds, "We have laughed over that trip for years."
One of her favorite RHS memories was participating in the celebration in Washington, D.C., when the first red hat was installed in the Smithsonian: "500 of us walking down that mall was a treat…what an honor to be a part of history."